The Iowa Civil Liberties Union has joined with A-C-L chapters from 19 other states to urge state officials to investigate whether phone companies turned over call records to the National Security Agency.
Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, is asking Iowa’s Attorney General and the Iowa Utilities Board to investigate. “It’s really hard to know what exactly has happened because there’s been so little oversight of this issue both locally and nationally,” Stone says. “We’re hoping that this campaign the ACLU’s, that the ACLU of Iowa’s playing a role in, will help to initiate greater oversight so we really can learn what has been going on, what kind of information sharing, what kind of snooping has been going on.”
Stone says it’s not an effort to “obstruct legitimate law enforcement activities” but he says there’s no reason for a citizen’s telephone records to be divulged without a warrant, notice or consent. A Des Moines businessman and attorney who’s been an A-T-&-T customer for 45 years is the first Iowan to file a complaint with the state utilities board, according to Stone, who urges other Iowans to consider similar action.
Qwest is the dominant local phone service provider in Iowa, and Stone praises the company for refusing to release such information. “Qwest has really done well to stand up for the privacy of their customers, but we need to also send messages to other phone companies,” Stone says. “We’re really hoping that a few complaints filed with the Iowa Utilities Board will generate that kind of oversight.”
On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission declined to investigate complaints that the spy agency was culling through millions of phone call records in an attempt to trace terrorist activities, and that some phone companies had voluntarily turned over customer records to the National Security Agency.
President Bush has refused to confirm or deny the complaint, but has told reporters the spy agency’s actions have been legal and the government is not trying to pry into private citizens’ lives.