WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telephone industry, should open an investigation into whether the nation's phone companies broke the law by turning over millions of calling records to the government, an FCC commissioner says.
The National Security Agency has been collecting records of calls made in the U.S. by ordinary Americans as part of its anti-terrorism efforts, according to USA Today. The newspaper story followed reports that the NSA has been conducting eavesdropping on the electronic communications of suspected al-Qaida members and their contacts in the U.S. without warrants.
Commissioner Michael J. Copps' comments also come as the three phone companies allegedly involved -- AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. -- face a growing number of lawsuits by consumers. The latest, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, seeks billions of dollars in damages for violation of federal privacy laws.
''There is no doubt that protecting the security of the American people is our government's No. 1 responsibility,'' Copps, a Democrat, said in a statement. ''But in a digital age where collecting, distributing and manipulating consumers' personal information is as easy as a click of a button, the privacy of our citizens must still matter.''
Bravo, Mr. Copps. (Those who are so inclined may click on that link, read about Copps, and drop the FCC a quick email of support for holding the telecom giants accountable.)