FCC Declines to Probe Alleged Phone Company, NSA Violations

The federal agency that regulates telecommunications has declined to look into allegations that phone companies broke laws by sharing customer records with the government's biggest spy agency.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said in a letter that the agency doesn't have the power to review classified information, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said Tuesday.

"The classified nature of the NSA's activities makes us unable to investigate the alleged violations discussed in your letter," Martin, a Republican, wrote in a letter dated Monday.

Markey, the ranking Democrat on a House telecommunications subcommittee, asked Martin last week to investigate reports that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth shared phone call records about tens of millions of Americans with the National Security Agency.

In a letter released Tuesday, Markey said the FCC has "taken a pass at investigating what is estimated to be the nation's largest violation of consumer privacy ever to occur."

A Democratic FCC commissioner, Michael J. Copps, said last week that the agency should investigate phone companies involved in the NSA program.

President Bush and other administration officials have neither confirmed nor denied a USA Today report that the NSA is collecting the calling records of ordinary Americans in its effort to detect the plans of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Bush has said the administration's anti-terror surveillance programs are legal and constitutional.