Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - May 21, 2018 


Giuliani now says the Mueller probe into Russian collusion will end by September. Also on the rundown: Healthcare providers gear up as Trump's new "Gag Rule" targets Planned Parenthood; and some perspective on the administration’s push for Arctic oil.

Daily Newscasts

Phone Company Fights FBI to Protect Customers' Records

PHOTO: An American telephone company is taking the rare step of challenging a request for customer records, saying the FBI is overreaching.
PHOTO: An American telephone company is taking the rare step of challenging a request for customer records, saying the FBI is overreaching.
July 30, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It's a story that's hard to tell. A phone company is taking the rare step of challenging a request for customer records, saying the FBI is overreaching. Matt Zimmerman is a lawyer for the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation. He is representing the company, which he cannot identify.

In fact, his lips are sealed about almost everything in this case, because of the use of what is called a national security letter (NSL), often employed in hunting for terrorism, post-9/11.

"It allows the FBI to seek information and to gag recipients without any kind of court oversight ahead of time."

The Justice Department says NSLs have helped uncover terrorist cells in the U.S. But officials have acknowledged they've also been abused by the FBI. Zimmerman says it's a false choice to suggest that privacy and security can't co-exist within the legal system. And he says the FBI has plenty of other tools to use.

According to Brenda Green, executive director of the ACLU of West Virginia, it's almost impossible for a private citizen to find out how many of the letters might have been used to get information about people in the state. And because the technology has advanced so much faster than the law, Green says there is a lot of information to get.

"There is so much that could be tracked through a simple cell phone. It could tell us that maybe you went to the health department to get an HIV test. Maybe you went an AA meeting. Maybe you went to a political rally. Maybe you were having an affair."

The Wall Street Journal analyzed documents released by the FBI and speculated that the phone company fighting the NSL may be Working Assets, which operates a long-distance service and has said it closely guards its customers' data. Zimmerman says he can't confirm which phone company it is.

"No recipient of a national-security letter can identify the content of the information sought or identify who the ultimate target is - and neither can their lawyers."

The NSL is available at http://bit.ly/OJyi18.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV