View Full Version : Justice Department Sues To Block Missouri From Getting Phone Records

07-26-2006, 08:54 AM
Justice Department sues to block Missouri from getting phone records


Updated 7/25/2006

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government sued two members of the Missouri Public Service Commission on Tuesday to stop them from seeking information about customer records that telephone companies may have given to the National Security Agency.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, claims disclosure of any information the Missouri regulatory body wants to obtain could cause "exceptionally grave harm to national security."

Public Service Commission members Robert Clayton and Steve Gaw issued subpoenas last month to find out whether AT&T Inc. supplied Missouri customer information and calling records to the NSA in violation of Missouri privacy rules.

The Missouri subpoenas came after a USA TODAY story reported that AT&T and other phone companies handed over phone records of millions of Americans to the NSA after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In its lawsuit, the Justice Department says the federal government has "exclusive control vis-a-vis the states with respect to foreign intelligence gathering, national security, that conduct of foreign affairs and the conduct of military affairs."

The government asserts that Missouri officials lack authority to compel AT&T — and any other phone company that serves Missouri residents — from responding to the subpoenas because highly classified and sensitive information is involved.

Responding to the lawsuit, Clayton said the government "cites no law or court order which allows AT&T to ignore or violate Missouri law."

"We in no way want to interfere with activity that relates to national security, but we have a legal and moral obligation to enforce Missouri privacy law," Clayton said. "We are asking very general questions to ensure that our own laws are being followed."

Last month, the Justice Department filed a similar lawsuit against the New Jersey attorney general and other state officials to stop them from obtaining information about phone company cooperation with the NSA.

The Justice Department has said more than 20 lawsuits have been filed around the country charging phone companies with illegally assisting the NSA.

In Missouri, a Cole County judge has set an Aug. 28 hearing on the request from Clayton and Gaw to compel AT&T to comply with the subpoenas.