Here's a story that may sound familiar even if you haven't been listening in on anybody's telephone calls.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility said that it couldn't investigate the role Justice Department lawyers played in the NSA's warrantless spying program because the Bush administration refused to give investigators the necessary security clearances. Now the Federal Communications Commission says it can't investigate the role telephone companies appear to have played in the NSA's telephone database project because the NSA activities are classified.
In a letter to Democratic Rep. Ed Markey, Kevin J. Martin, the former Bush-Cheney campaign lawyer who chairs the FCC, says we can all rest assured that members of the FCC "take very seriously our charge to faithfully implement the nation's laws, including our authority to investigate potential violations of the Communications Act." However, Martin says, "the classified nature of the NSA's activities" leaves the FCC "unable to investigate" the allegation that the telephone companies violated the act by turning over call records to the NSA.
Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.