Feds Want AT&T Class-Action Spy Suit Dismissed - InformationWeek

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5/3/2006
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Feds Want AT&T Class-Action Spy Suit Dismissed

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit in California in January, accusing AT&T of cooperating with a government surveillance program. The U.S. Department of Justice responded with a notice stating it plans to intervene to protect military and state secrets privilege, as well as request the lawsuit's dismissal.

The federal government is intervening in a lawsuit over the National Security Agency's surveillance program and trying to get the case dismissed.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class action lawsuit in California in January, accusing AT&T of cooperating with the NSA surveillance program. The U.S. Department of Justice responded last week with a notice stating it plans to intervene in order to protect military and state secrets privilege and request dismissal.

The EFF claims that the telephone company took part in "dragnet" interception and analysis of its customers' phone conversations and e-mails for suspicious names, numbers and words, without court orders. The suit claims that the company violated customers' privacy and damaged fundamental freedoms of Americans by giving the government unfettered access to more than 300 terabytes of caller information from its huge Daytona database.

Evidence in the case is sealed and AT&T claims the documents could expose trade secrets. EFF reports that its evidence of data mining includes a statement from a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, internal documents and an expert opinion of a former senior Internet technology advisor for the Federal Communications Commission.

The government claims in court documents that the case could expose information that would harm national security.

"In addition, the United States has an interest relating to the subject matter of this action that cannot adequately be represented by the other parties because this case specifically puts at issue alleged government surveillance activities," the documents said.

The government plans to file a motion to dismiss the case by May 12, further explaining its rationale. If the court denies the government's request for dismissal, the government can still argue to exclude certain information from the case.

Michael Balmoris, an AT&T regulatory and legislative representative, responded to an e-mail request for comment Wednesday by stating that: "AT&T follows all laws with respect to requests for assistance for governmental authorities. We cannot comment on matters involving national security or litigation."

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