The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon has delivered petitions on behalf of 1,774 Oregonians to the Oregon Public Utility Commission urging that body to vigorously investigate the cooperation of Oregon telephone companies with the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance and data-mining of innocent Americans.
Last month, the ACLU filed a formal complaint with the Oregon PUC against Verizon, Sprint and Qwest, alleging that the companies turned over private calling records of telephone customers in violation of state law. The ACLU also asked Attorney General Hardy Myers to investigate whether the companies violated Oregon consumer protection laws by allowing the National Security Agency to spy on their customers.
"Today, the people of Oregon have stepped forward to demand that their government investigate this massive, illegal and fundamentally un-American invasion of our privacy," said David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon.
"It's important for state officials to ensure that the privacy rights of innocent telephone customers aren't breached by a federal agency acting outside the law and the protections of our Constitution."
On May 24, the ACLU affiliates in 20 states filed complaints with public utility commissions and other officials around the country, specifically calling for investigations into the unlawful sharing of billions of consumers' call records with the NSA. If the sharing is found to violate state law, the ACLU is urging that officials issue "cease-and-desist" orders to the telecommunications companies in their states.
In addition to the names of 1,774 Oregonians delivered to the Oregon Public Utility Commission, the names of over 60,000 individuals were delivered nationwide to various public utility commissions in support of these nationwide filings.
The national ACLU also sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to reconsider its refusal to investigate reports that at least three major telecommunications companies — AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon — cooperated with the NSA in an effort to collect calling information and call patterns on every American.
The ACLU also argued in a federal court in Detroit that the NSA's spying program is unconstitutional and violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The court heard arguments in the case on June 12.
The ACLU also filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission pointing out that the agency cannot permit a pending merger between AT&T and BellSouth without investigating the merits of allegations that these companies illegally provided customer information to the NSA.
"The rule of law has been broken, and it must be restored," said Fidanque. "The people of Oregon are proud to stand against this abuse of power. We urge our state officials to bring the truth to light."
The ACLU of Oregon's complaint to the Oregon Public Utility Commission and other information is available online at www.aclu-or.org.
More information on the ACLU's concerns with the NSA spying and national filings are online at www.aclu.org/nsaspying.