Public Advocate Ron Chen met with the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today to hash out Chen's office's budget for next fiscal year.
(According to their website, Chen's Department of Public Advocacy is the “principal executive department of the state dedicated to making government more accountable and more responsive to the needs of average New Jerseyans.”)
Today most committee members wanted to discuss Eminent Domain (more on that later) but one Senator had other things on her mind.
Senator Barbara Buono used today's hearing to gently nudge Chen on the status of an Amicus brief Chen filed after learning the NSA was sorting through the phone records of NJ residents, in violation of state law.
(Some quick background: When the NSA's domestic spying follies came to light way-back-when, then-AG Zulima Farber wanted some answers. After all, the Attorney General is charged with protecting New Jerseyans from consumer fraud. In this case, the questions surrounded whether telecom companies violated their own privacy statements by releasing this information to NSA. According to Chen, the current AG Stuart Rabner was keen to pursue this after taking over.)
When Sen. Buono asked about the status of that suit — and the Amicus brief that went with it — Chen's answer was pretty shocking.
Apparently, Rabner's efforts have most recently been met with Federal intervention as the Department of Justice moved to block the AG's enforcement of the telecom companies' privacy agreements, citing “state secrets.”
How crazy is that?
Anyway, stay tuned. This is currently playing itself out in the courts. In June the case will be heard by a judge in California, which is one of a half dozen states to join NJ to press forward with the issue of telecom's roll in domestic spying.