FCC, Telcos, Congress, and FISA

court_rules.gif The FCC won’t investigate possible illegal telco activities:
The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission declined to investigate reports that phone companies turned over customer records to the National Security Agency, citing national security concerns, according to documents released on Friday.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin turned down a congressional request for an investigation as a top intelligence official concluded it would “pose an unnecessary risk of damage to the national security,” according to a letter National Intelligence Director Michael McConnell sent to Martin on Tuesday.

FCC won’t probe disclosure of phone records, By Reuters, October 6, 2007, 4:00 PM PDT

It seems unlikely the FCC will investigate active wiretapping, either. National security: the root password to the Constitution.

But Congress won’t let the telcos off the hook, well, not completely:

House Democrats have refused to submit to Bush administration requests to save telecommunications companies that assisted in a warrantless wiretapping scheme from lawsuits or prosecution, and they want to require judicial approval for future efforts to spy on Americans.

Under the new law, the Attorney General or Director of National Intelligence would be authorized to receive blanket warrants to eavesdrop on several foreign intelligence targets who could call into the United States, but the bill would restore FISA court reviews of targeting procedures and steps taken to “minimize” Americans’ exposure to surveillance. If an American is to become the “target” of surveillance, intelligence agencies would be required to seek an individualized warrant from the FISA court.

Proposed FISA update would not give telecom companies legal protection, by Nick Juliano, RawStory, Tuesday October 9, 2007

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court already is so secretive that although its court rules say it has a seal, there’s no image of it available anywhere on the web that I could find, and it already lets intelligence agencies apply within a few days for retroactive authorization for wiretaps.

Of course, this bill would have to pass the Senate and get signed by the president or get enough votes to override a veto. But at least the former law didn’t retroactively immunize the telcos, and this bill doesn’t, either.