AT&T Opposes Providing Panel Texts to ChristieTerrence Dopp
AT&T Inc. is fighting a subpoena from New Jersey lawmakers seeking text messages between Governor Chris Christie and an aide related to intentional lane closings a year ago at the George Washington Bridge.
AT&T requires a search warrant or a court order to reveal the content of texts, Reid Schar, a lawyer for the legislative committee investigating the closings, said yesterday in a letter to the panel. The Dallas-based company did provide a log of numbers called by the aide, Regina Egea, and their duration.
“AT&T takes its obligation to assist law enforcement very seriously,” said Mark Siegel, a spokesman for the second-biggest U.S. wireless carrier. “We’re also committed to protecting our customers’ privacy.”
Christie, 52, is dogged by state and federal inquiries that threaten his potential 2016 presidential run, even after a report he commissioned concluded that he had no involvement with the closings. E-mails from Christie’s aides and appointees discussing a plan to clog the span surfaced in January. The incident shut local-access lanes on the world’s busiest span for four days and brought the town of Fort Lee to a standstill.
Egea, the head of the authorities unit in the governor’s office at the time of the closings, told the committee under questioning in July that she deleted at least one bridge-related text exchange that she’d had with Christie in December. She said she believed they were archived.
Egea told lawmakers July 17 that the closings last September produced data meant for a traffic study.
Senator Loretta Weinberg, co-chair of the committee, said AT&T’s response to the subpoena shows the delicate legal situation the committee is in: it was chartered by joint votes of the Senate and Assembly to investigate the closings, yet must also be mindful of a parallel inquiry by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
At the same time, the panel has subpoena power that is short of that a law enforcement or judicial body would have.
“I think it’s counter-intuitive to believe that Regina Egea only once in the time she served in the Authorities Unit ever texted the governor and that the one time she did she deleted it,” Weinberg said in an interview.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, a Sayreville Democrat who also co-chairs the committee, didn’t respond to telephone messages seeking comment.