Bush Administration Bars Telecoms from Speaking with Congress on Secret Program

In an amazing act of defiance, the Bush Administration has ordered telecommunication companies to refuse to disclose to Congress whether they have revealed information to the government in the ongoing investigation of a secret program.

Three telecommunications companies have now refused to tell Congress whether they gave U.S. intelligence agencies access to Americans’ phone and computer records without court orders, saying that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell “formally invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent AT&T from either confirming or denying” any details about intelligence programs, AT&T general counsel Wayne Watts wrote in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

It is a clear violation of Congressional oversight and a violation of the separation of powers, in my view. I have litigated the military and state secrets privilege in the Area 51 case and have been a long critic of that doctrine. However, it is always entirely used in court proceedings, as intended by the Supreme Court in the Reynolds decision. The question now is whether Congress will show backbone and use its contempt powers. It should also hold hearings on the much abused doctrine itself. Most importantly, it should reject the demand to give telecommunication companies immunity under the new legislation sought by the Administration. For the full story, click here