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Federal judge blocks Maine hearing on Verizon role in NSA surveillance

[JURIST] The US District Court of Maine [official website] has ruled that the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) [official website] cannot compel Verizon Communications [corporate website] to disclose whether the telephone company participated in the warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] run by the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website]. In Bangor Thursday, US District Judge John Woodcock [official profile] cited a "potential risk" to national security as he granted Verizon's motion for declaratory judgment. The judge also barred the MPUC from holding a hearing scheduled for Friday, during which Verizon representatives were ordered to testify under oath about statements [press release] the company made regarding the NSA program last spring. Verizon said it would not comment on the NSA program or the company's relationship to it, although it did deny media reports that it had agreed to provide the NSA with data from customers' domestic calls.

The lawsuit was filed [JURIST report] by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in August. In the past, the DOJ has argued that lawsuits challenging the NSA surveillance program could reveal state secrets [JURIST report] and should therefore be dismissed. Last month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] that the Bush administration has agreed to submit all future domestic surveillance requests [JURIST report] to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FJC backgrounder] for approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text]. Maine's Bangor Daily News has more.

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