Thursday, May 18, 2006

Idiot Federal Law

In federal court yesterday, an attorney for AT&T suggested AT&T might have legal cover for the lawsuits just filed against the company. A section of federal law, 18 U.S.C. 2511, permits a telecommunications company to provide "information" and "facilities" to the federal government as long as the attorney general authorized it.

If John Ashcroft, who was serving as Attorney General when the National Security Agency program began, provided "a letter of certification" that no warrant was required, then AT&T is off the hook. Yesterday in court Deputy Assistant Attorney General Carl Nichols suggested such a letter exists, noting that there are undisclosed "facts that AT&T might want to present in its defense."

What makes this situation curiouser and curiouser is that 18 U.S.C. 2511's says that telecommunication companies may not "disclose the existence of any interception or surveillance or the device used to accomplish the interception or surveillance".

So, the court could absolve AT&T of any wrongdoing and we, the public, may never know the true reason.



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