January 31, 2006 1:11 PM PST

AT&T sued over NSA spy program

AT&T has been named a defendant in a class action lawsuit that claims the telecommunications company illegally cooperated with the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping program.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco's federal district court, charges that AT&T has opened its telecommunications facilities up to the NSA and continues to "to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit, says AT&T's alleged cooperation violates free speech and privacy rights found in the U.S. Constitution and also contravenes federal wiretapping law, which prohibits electronic surveillance "except as authorized by statute."

Kevin Bankston, an EFF staff attorney, said he anticipates that the Bush administration will intervene in the case on behalf of AT&T. "We are definitely going to have a fight with the government and AT&T," he said.

AT&T said Tuesday that it needed to review the complaint before it could respond. But AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk told CNET News.com last week in response to a query about NSA cooperation: "We don't comment on matters of national security."

A Los Angeles Times article dated Dec. 26 quoted an unnamed source as saying the NSA has a "direct hookup" into an AT&T database that stores information about all domestic phone calls, including how long they lasted.

If the Bush administration does intervene, EFF could have a formidable hurdle to overcome: the so-called "state secrets" doctrine.

The state secrets privilege, outlined by the Supreme Court in a 1953 case, permits the government to derail a lawsuit that might otherwise lead to the disclosure of military secrets.

In 1998, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals elaborated on the state secret privilege in a case where former workers at the Air Force's classified Groom Lake, Nev., facility alleged hazardous waste violations. When requested by the workers' lawyers to turn over information, the Air Force refused.

The 9th Circuit upheld a summary judgment on behalf of the Air Force, saying that once the state secrets "privilege is properly invoked and the court is satisfied as to the danger of divulging state secrets, the privilege is absolute" and the case will generally be dismissed.

The Bush administration also is defending a related lawsuit filed earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union, that says the surveillance was unconstitutional and illegal.

AT&T has 30 days to file a response, which could include a request that the case be dismissed or a motion for summary judgment.

CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report

See more CNET content tagged:
NSA, AT&T Corp., secret, surveillance, Bush Administration


Join the conversation!
Add your comment
Posted by anarchyreigns (299 comments )
Reply Link Flag
EFF is with the terrorists
EFF's lawyer's fighting Al Qaeda's battle in the courtroom....
Posted by fafafooey (171 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tell me again
I keep forgetting. Why is it that Republicans want to turn the United States into Stalinist Russia?
Posted by Ann Onymous (15 comments )
Link Flag
Our Bill of Rights ...
our bill of rights would never have become a reality with thinking like that. it's a good thing there were sufficiently wise and strong-willed men to fight the battle for freedom 225 years ago. so many Americans today do not understand what true freedom is.

mark d.
Posted by markdoiron (1138 comments )
Link Flag
No, you are with the terrorists!
After all, aren't the terrorists who "hate freedom?" Like freedom of privacy? You're helping them to terrorize the US into lack of freedom.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
You, Sir, are a boob.
nuff said
Posted by milflyboy (5 comments )
Link Flag
attacked my country, but Americans (Bush, Cheney) are revoking
the principals of my country. Congratulations Saddam, killing you
may be a guilty pleasure, but in your anti-Islamic fanaticism you
have hurt my country in ways you could never have imagined.
Posted by Darwin Hall (36 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Just called and cancled both my home and business services. I will
not support a company that is anti-American. Take your $$
elsewhere! It's the only thing they understand.
Posted by Heather Scott (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Bush is the world's biggest terrorist since Adolph Hitler
This administration is not satisfied driving the military industrial complex to new record profits, but it is further determined to desimate human rights wherever they are, including and especially right here at home in the USA. He is fully out of control and it's time for the Congress to not only impeach him but toprosecute and punish him for war crimes, lying to and deceiving the American people and Congress and for putting our soldiers in harms way. Furhtermore, he is also guilty of sabotaging US relations throughout the world and negating the sacrifices of the millions who died fighting oppression in WWII. His regime's time has come to pay for their abuses.
Posted by Steve Meiers (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Something Must Be Done
Cheney was/is CEO of Haliburton he still gets a check. Bush and Cheney have everything going through Haliburton and it's side companies. When they are out of office they will be back at Haliburton to collect the money. With all the things this administration has wrongfully done and Congress does nothing baffles me? It is making me start to feel this administration is trying to destroy our country.
This administration is destroying families and thier children's future. People! Are we weak or Americans? Contact your government and insist on doing. Oh can we sue this administration? Then we would all be millionaires and equals.
Posted by dfox1963 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Fundamentalist sounding
As we all know, there is a lot of opposition, with regard to the war in Iraq, as well as other actions taken by the US military and government, with George Bush at the helm. I myself am not fond of some of the actions that have been or are being taken. The facts will still remain the same though. We are the United States of America. We are a lot of things to a lot of people all over the world, being a tyrant included. But this is all a matter of view point. No body said that you had to like Mr.Bush nor his views and actions based on his views. You do need to understand that, this is the United States of America. We have laws that govern us and with regard to laws, we must take into account, the laws of life as well. There are certain laws of nature that are just a given and when we find ourselves in a position, where we have to make a decision, based upon those laws, we make the best decision that we possibly can, with all things in mind. I wish you could have the weight of running the US on your shoulders for just one week. Imagine being in the middle of all of that mess and having to decide which lives or how many of them are worth losing or mangling, in order to make the world safer for all. We all know what war is and we all should bear in mind the rules of war. People die. Innocents die as well and this is a given in any war situation. If you have such a problem with Bush and his rules, then go live in one of those other countries where you have no freedoms like we do. I wake every morning in my own home, with my 5 daughters and thank God that I am where I am. You take for granted your liberties and ability to speak out freely. Bush will not pay for anything in your lifetime, because he is only doing his job as he sees he should. If you disagree, great. You do have the right to your opinion but keep in mind that you have maybe a half a percent of his weight on your sholders. Your statements make you sound like a middle eastern, fundamentalist, such as Osama Muhammed Awad bin Laden. Have some respect for that which you cannot understand. Enjoy your freedoms and do not bite the hand that protects you. I may disagree with Bush on many points but do not disrespect him with trash about punishing him for war crimes and nonsense. Your freedom of speech also gives you the resonsibility to respect others, especially those whom give you that freedom. Of course, this is just my opinion. Have a nice day.
Posted by zeusx64 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Imagine this scenario... being in a lawsuit with this company and trying to get some help with harrasment related issues and misuse of the spy program for about 23 months now. How does the goverment plan on dealing with these kind of problems? Corporate America has no business in National Security.
Posted by cnetfankelly (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
There's the Beef
Corporate America has no business in government either. Wasn't there something about "for the people, by the people and of the people". The faounding documents did NOT say anything about corporations.

We need to get profiteering out of health care, the military, public utilities, water, energy, transportation and anything else that "the people" should own and not some greedy suits and corps.

Communism learned a lot from us, but what did we learn from them? Nothing; we won, we must know it all. Well notso fast. I ask: how can a poor country like Cuba provide free nationalized medical care to not only its citizens but to anyone in their country, and the big and strong USofA can NOT?

It's not because we can't afford it. It's ONLY because we are TOO greedy. It's that simple.

For some "fundamentalist" reasons, we think that some of "us" are better than "them" and so "we" should have and "they" should not.

I really want these folks to lie seriously injured on the street in a poor community with their trappings of luxury on display for the "have nots" to see and then ask the "have nots" for help and see what happens. The only problem with my question is that it's the poor people who care about each other who WOULD help another person, despite their affluence, because "they" know it's RIGHT to do so.

Does Bush know what "right" is? Just ask a Katrina victim who still can;t go home, a year after they bungled that response. Again, where's the money? Where's the profit? That's where you'll find Bush and Co. For "fighting terror", whatever it costs. For poor folks in Luisiana and Mississippi? Nada. A bus ride to Houston and good luck. I rest my case.
Posted by Steve Meiers (4 comments )
Link Flag
i have been tapped now for almost four years or cyberstalked due to this android app partnered up with the blue and q2, also something called a jawbone. everyone thought i was crazy until i hired a private eye too figure out how the guy knew everything, by that time he actually declared me incompetent stole checks of mine. hade me sell my house, all due to a few apps i am pennyless and still being cyberstalked help!
Posted by vegasnum1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot



RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.