New Jersey v. Bush

From Holden:

New Jersey’s attorney general subpeonas telephone company records to find out if they are illegally giving records of your phone calls to the NSA, and the Bush Assministration countersues.

The New Jersey attorney general has issued subpoenas to five telephone companies to determine whether any of them violated the state’s consumer protection laws by providing records to the National Security Agency. Experts say it is the first legal move by a state to question the agency’s program to compile calling records to track terrorist activities.

On Wednesday, the United States filed a lawsuit to block the subpoenas, setting up a legal showdown pitting the state’s authority to protect consumers’ rights against the federal government’s national security powers.

“People in New Jersey and people everywhere have privacy rights,” the state’s attorney general, Zulima V. Farber, said on Thursday. “What we were trying to determine was whether the phone companies in New Jersey had violated any law or any contractual obligations with their consumers by supplying information to some government entity, simply by request, and not by any court order or search warrant.”


[T]he Justice Department filed suit in United States District Court here to block those subpoenas — a suit that Ms. Farber received on Thursday — it asserted that the state was straying into a federal matter, and that compliance with the subpoenas would imperil national security.


The question of whether phone companies have turned over customer records to the spy agency already has spawned a handful of lawsuits. Some companies have denied surrendering the records; others denied wrongdoing or declined to comment. For instance, a federal judge in San Francisco has scheduled a hearing for next Friday in a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy-rights advocacy group that seeks to enjoin phone companies from turning over records and seeks damages for affected customers.


According to some critics, one potential weakness of the government’s state-secrets claim is that Ms. Farber — as well as Gov. Jon S. Corzine and Richard L. Caas, the state director of homeland security — has top federal security clearance, and might well not divulge any sensitive national security information she received as a result of the subpoenas.

“Our state officials are cleared for security purposes all the time,” said Bruce Afran, a lawyer in Princeton, N.J., who, with his partner, Carl Mayer, filed a federal suit in Manhattan last month against Verizon.