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FCC chief calls for probe of domestic phone records turnover to NSA

[JURIST] Federal Communications Commission [official website] chief Michael J. Copps said Monday that the agency should investigate [statement, DOC] the access to domestic customers' phone records [USA Today report; JURIST report] allegedly granted to the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] by telecommunications giants Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth [corporate websites]. Reacting to reports that the companies complied with NSA requests to look at the records, Copps said that "protecting the security of the American people is our government's number one responsibility" and that a probe was necessary to determine whether a violation of Section 222 [text] or any other provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 [text] occurred. On Thursday, US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he would call on the phone companies [Reuters report] implicated in the USA Today report to provide information to the committee on the allegations, while President Bush defended [JURIST report] domestic surveillance activities. AP has more.

BellSouth said Monday that it cannot find any proof [AP report] that the company turned over records to the NSA. A company spokesperson also said that an internal review uncovered no evidence that BellSouth was even contacted by the NSA. According to reports, Qwest Communications [corporate website], a regional Bell based in Denver, did not allow the NSA to access its customer records. Meanwhile AT&T and Verizon have neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the allegations against them.

Meanwhile, lawyers have filed suit in New York federal court against Verizon for its alleged involvement in the disclosure of phone records. The suit, brought Friday, claims violations of the Telecommunications Act and the Stored Communications Act of 1986 [text]. Verizon could be fined up to $1,000 for every violation of the Telecommunications Act. The attorneys, who seek to certify the suit as a class action, are considering joining AT&T as a defendant. AT&T already faces a class action lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy website] because the company allegedly allowed the NSA to use its infrastructure [JURIST report] to wiretap US citizens. CNET News has more.

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About Paper Chase

Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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