Investigation Abandoned Into NSA Phone Snooping
The Vermont Public Service Board has formally shut down its investigation into whether Vermonters' phone records were turned over the National Security Agency as part of a broad-based domestic surveillance program.
The action comes in the wake of congressional action in 2008 that granted telecommunications companies immunity from any claims made against them and that ordered any investigations closed.
The actions make it likely Vermonters, and other Americans, will never learn the details of the program.
Not disputed is the existence of the program. That was confirmed in an interview by the national intelligence chief. Telecommunications companies themselves told Congress that they responded to requests for customer phone records. And Congress's granting of immunity to the companies is a strong suggestion that a situation outside the law existed.
It's the details of the program that will likely never be known. A lawsuit against Congress's 2008 immunity and protection law has been filed, but hat could take years to resolve and faces an uphill battle.
The ACLU of Vermont was one of 20 ACLU affiliates around the country to file complaints with public utility commissions or sent letters to state attorneys general and other officials requesting investigations into whether local telecommunications companies allowed the NSA to spy on their customers.
The complaints immediately run into a legal roadblock set up by the federal government's Department of Justice -- a state secrets claim. Nothing about the surveillance program, including whether it even existed, could be divulged for national security reasons, the DOJ argued in U.S. District Courts around the country.
The Bush administration and telecommunications companies then went to Congress and argued their case for protection, which was granted in a controversial vote in summer 2008.
Vermont's Public Service Board action was taken "without prejudice," which means the case could be reopened if new evidence comes to light.
Documents in the case (most recent first):
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