Verizon Admits Turning Over Customer Records to the Federal Government

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
October 16, 2007 12:00 am

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Maine Civil Liberties Union Outraged at Disregard for the Constitution

PORTLAND, ME — The Maine Civil Liberties Union expressed outrage today at Verizon’s revelation that it has turned over the phone records of U.S. customers to the federal government without a warrant hundreds of times since 2005. Verizon is asserting that the acquisition of its operations by Fairpoint will remove the state’s jurisdiction over any privacy violations it may have committed.

“We are outraged that Verizon would breach the privacy of its customers and ignore the Constitution by handing over customer records without their knowledge,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “Verizon must be held accountable for its participation in the illegal spying program.”

Tomorrow, Congress is likely to vote on the RESTORE Act, introduced by Congressmen John Conyers and Silvestre Reyes to address the role of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the government surveillance program. The legislation includes provisions for “bucket warrants,” which would allow the records of Americans to be collected in blanket sweeps without individualized warrants. Competing versions of the FISA legislation also include immunity for telecommunications companies that have cooperated in the illegal warrantless surveillance program.

“Just because Verizon is coming clean now about its actions over the last two years does not mean the company should be let off the hook,” said Bellows. “The revelation that Verizon aided the illegal spying program should lead the state of Maine to do everything in its power to protect the privacy of Mainers, and Congress to do the same for every person in the United States.”

In May 2006, Douglas Cowie and 22 other Maine privacy activists initiated a customer complaint urging the state’s Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether Verizon handed over customer records to the National Security Agency (NSA) or gave the agency access to their phone equipment. Last week, Maine’s Public Advocate issued a list of conditions on the proposed acquisition of Verizon-Maine’s landlines, including that “the (Public Utilities) Commission should retain jurisdiction over Verizon-Maine for the purpose of completing its investigation and applying any remedy, in connection with the Cowie complaint, at such time that the case is remanded to the Commission or the stay of the federal district is lifted.”

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