Complaint on phone records filed with agency


AUGUSTA (AP) – A group of Mainers has filed a complaint seeking to find out if the National Security Agency is collecting information on telephone customers in Maine.

The complaint filed with the Public Utilities Commission demands an investigation into whether Verizon Communications has allowed the NSA to have access to Maine phone customers’ records. Verizon is the dominant phone company in the state.

Two days after the complaint was filed with the PUC, USA Today newspaper reported that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans using data provided by Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth.

The complaint in Maine was filed by a group of 21 Mainers and asks the PUC to demand answers from Verizon about whether it provided telephone records and information to the federal government without customers’ knowledge or consent. Maine law requires the PUC to investigate complaints against a utility if a petition involves at least 10 of the utility’s customers.

The lead plaintiff is James Cowie of Portland, a former adviser to the PUC staff and expert witness on its advocate staff. Cowie said he brought the complaint after Verizon refused to say if it had given his personal records to the federal government.

A Verizon spokesman would not comment specifically on the Maine complaint, but issued a statement in response to questions about the NSA data collection.

“We do not comment on national security matters,” Verizon spokesman David Fish said. “Questions about national security policies and practices should be directed to the relevant government policymakers.”

Shenna Bellows, executive director of Maine Civil Liberties Union, said monitoring the phone records of millions of Americans “does not make us safer, but it does make us less free.” The MCLU helped organize the complaint.

“The administration and now apparently the phone companies have violated the Constitution and the public trust in spying on so many Americans without probable cause,” she said in a statement.

State Rep. Herb Adams, a Portland Democrat, said he has sent a letter to Verizon and AT&T asking if they have given information to the federal government and where customers can direct questions and complaints about the practice.

“At the end of day, it’s most likely that many of the 1.2 million Mainers are in that 200 million Americans whose private phone records were revealed without their knowledge,” Adams said.