May 23, 2006- FCC Refuses to Investigate NSA Program, Predicting Likely Administration Road Blocks

Washington, DC:  Last week Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, sent a letter to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) regarding reports of the disclosure by the nation’s largest telecommunications carriers, AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth, of private consumer information from millions of Americans to the National Security Agency (NSA).  Specifically, Rep. Markey requested that the FCC investigate these apparent violations of the Communications Act or explain why the agency thought the NSA program did not violate the law.  Today the FCC refused to commence an investigation or respond to Rep. Markey’s questions, citing the Bush Administration’s likely claim of “states secrets privilege.”

Rep. Markey expressed concern at the Commission’s lack of willingness to investigate this issue, made the following statement: 

“Today the watchdog agency that oversees the country’s telecommunications industry refused to investigate the nation’s largest phone companies’ reported disclosure of phone records to the NSA.  The FCC, which oversees the protection of consumer privacy under the Communications Act of 1934, has taken a pass at investigating what is estimated to be the nation’s largest violation of consumer privacy ever to occur.  If the oversight body that monitors our nation’s communications is stepping aside then Congress must step in.” 

In his response to Rep. Markey, FCC Chairman Martin states: “The representations of Director Negroponte and General Alexander make clear that it would not be possible for us to investigate the activities addressed in your letter without examining highly sensitive classified information.” 

Rep. Markey said: “We can’t have a situation where the FCC, charged with enforcing the law, won’t even begin an investigation of apparent violations of the law because it predicts the Administration will roadblock any investigations citing national security.  If the FCC initiates an investigation and gets blocked by the White House, then the White House is stonewalling.  But if the FCC refuses to even demand answers, then the White House never has to block the enforcement agency from getting to the bottom of this. The American people deserve answers.”

On May 11, 2006, Representative Edward J. Markey, the ranking Democrat on the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee along with all other Democrats serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Energy and Commerce Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) requesting committee hearings on the subject.  To date there has been no response from the Committee Chairman.

For a copy of the letter from Chairman Kevin Martin of the Federal Communications Commission, see below or check out

Copy of FCC Response Copy of FCC Response (228.12 KB), May 22, 2006
Link to Rep. Markey's Original Letter to FCC, May 15, 2006

For Immediate Release
May 23, 2006

CONTACT: Tara McGuinness,