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Thread: EFF Sues AT&T to Stop Illegal Surveillance

  1. #1
    [news=]The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

    In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

    In the largest "fishing expedition" ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be "linked" to "suspicious activities," suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.

    But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.

    AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

    The lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

    The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

    The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.


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  3. News (Archive)   -   #2
    DOJ Intervention Comes Just Days Before Hearing on Sealed Evidence

    San Francisco - Early Saturday morning, the United States government filed a motion to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&T for illegally handing over its customers' telephone and Internet records and communications to the National Security Agency. The government claims that its legal brief and two affidavits from senior intelligence officials that accompanied the motion are classified, preventing even the parties to the lawsuit, EFF and AT&T, from seeing them.

    While EFF was not permitted to see the government's entire brief, in a redacted version made publicly available the government said that the case against AT&T should be immediately terminated because any judicial inquiry into the whether AT&T broke the law could reveal state secrets and harm national security.

    "The government is trying to lock out any judicial inquiry into AT&T and the NSA's illegal spying operation," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "It is illegal for major telecommunications companies to simply hand over private customer information to the government. They should not be allowed to hide their illegal activity behind government assertions of 'state secrets' to prevent the judiciary from stepping in to expose and punish the illegal behavior. If the government's motion is granted, it will have undermined the freedoms our country has fought so hard to protect."

    EFF's federal lawsuit against AT&T alleges that the telecommunications company has given the NSA secret, direct access to the phone calls and emails going over its network, and has been handing over communications logs detailing the activities of millions of ordinary Americans. This week, a USA TODAY report bolstered key allegations in EFF's lawsuit, detailing how AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth provided phone call records about of tens of millions of their customers to the NSA without any legal authorization. The same week, lawyers at the Justice Department were forced to halt their probe into the DOJ's involvement in the spying program because they were refused security clearance by the NSA.

    "The press has already widely reported on the illegal domestic surveillance that is the basis for our case. Allowing a court to determine whether AT&T broke the law would in no way harm national security. Indeed, our case is meant to protect Americans -- by requiring that the AT&T follow the law and protect its customers from unchecked spying into their personal communications," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston.

    On Wednesday, May 17, at 10 a.m., a U.S. District Court judge in San Francisco will hear oral arguments about the unsealing of critical documents in the lawsuit. The sealed evidence at issue includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, and several internal AT&T documents that support EFF's allegations. AT&T wants the documents returned and argues that they should not be used as evidence in the case. For more information about attending the hearing, please email

    For the redacted government motion:

    For USA TODAY's story:

    Last edited by RealitY; 05-16-2006 at 06:54 AM.


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