Federal law dating back to 1934 requires that telephone companies protect the confidentiality of their customers' communication. Yet only Qwest among the major phone companies defied the Bush Administration when the NSA asked it to turn over the phone records of their clientele. Actually, according to USA Today, Qwest's lawyers didn't refuse the request; they simply asked that the NSA first clear it through the courts specifically charged with enforcing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as required under federal law. The USA Today story quoted numerous sources as saying that the NSA didn't pursue the matter with Qwest because they thought the FISA court would not agree with the surveillance plan. The 79 percent of the Twin Cities market that uses Qwest should feel better that it takes our privacy--and existing laws--seriously.
Meanwhile, faced with a choice of embracing the Republican Party's legacy of limiting the reach of government or remaining loyal to the Bush Administration, U.S. Representative Mark Kennedy, a candidate for the Senate in November, opted for Bush. "There is no question that the government has a responsibility to take all necessary steps to protect American citizens, including monitoring conversations with terrorists or their affiliates, while protecting our fundamental civil liberties," Kennedy says in today's Strib. The 4th Amendment to the Constitution requires probable cause for search and seizure. That's pretty fundamental.