This suit, in the federal district court in Puerto Rico, sought to enjoin the Puerto Rican telephone company from cooperating with the federal government in wiretapping in Puerto Rico.
The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico contains an absolute prohibition on wiretapping. Federal law, however, permits federal agencies to engage in wiretapping under court order throughout the United States. Plaintiffs, Puerto Rican activists whose phones were tapped, claimed that the local telephone company is required to obey the Puerto Rican Constitution, and is prohibited from wiretapping. The government moved to dismiss the case and won. Plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit which affirmed the lower court decitiion.
This case clearly demonstrates the colonial status of Puerto Rico. While Congress is working to set up a plebiscite for the people of Puerto Rico to determine their own status in terms of the nature of their relationship with the U.S., the decision of the court contradicts the attitude of respect that Congress claims it wants to foster.
Michael Ratner, Sara Rios, Franh E. Deale, with Charles Hey, lnstituto Puertorriqueno de Derechos Civiles, and CCR. cooperaiting attorney Jose Antonio Lugo