Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cell Phone Records

On June 21, 2006, I appeared before the United States House of Representatives' Committee on Engergy and Commerce in Washington to ostensibly testify about "information brokers" who advertise cell phone records for sale on the Internet. If you Google my name, Skipp Porteous, you'll read on the Committee's website: "Mr. Porteous invoked his 5th Amendment right against self incrimination & declined to testify and answer the committees' questions."

The Committee is chaired by Congressman Joe Barton (R) of Texas, and had already passed a law that could land a person in prison for 20 years if they used deception to obtain a person's cell phone records. This was the first time I had ever heard of Congress holding a hearing after they had passed a law.

Earlier, they had invited me to testify. I politely declined. Then they subpoenaed me to appear. I would have gladly testified had they not kept me in the dark about why Sherlock Investigations was included in an investigation concerning what information brokers advertise on the Internet. Sherlock Investigations is not an information broker.

When our lawyer inquired why they included Sherlock Investigations in their investigation, as we have never advertised the procurement of cell phone records, the Committee's attorney said, "Are you sure?" Well, we were as sure as we could be.

When I was called upon to testify, the Committee posted a document on a large overhead flat-screen monitor. The document was a copy of a posting that a former employee had placed on the Internet...advertising a sale he was running on obtaining cell phone records. And he included Sherlock Investigations in his post.

After my initial shock, I said to myself, "So, this is what it was all about." Now, in a trial one has a right to "discovery." That means you have a right to know what the other side has on you. In a Congressional investigation you're kept in the dark, as it's not a trial.

We receive many inquiries about obtaining cell phone records. As useful as they might be in an investigation, we don't do it, period. I think you can understand why.

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