Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Feds Go All Out to Kill Spy Suit

On January 31 of this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a California class action lawsuit against AT&T accusing it of complicity with the National Security Agency's (NSA) alleged wiretapping program. They assert that the company violated federal law by providing the government with access to "two massive databases that included both the contents of its subscribers' communications and detailed transaction records, such as numbers dialed and internet addresses visited" (Wired). In this case, massive is an understatement, as one of the databases is known to contain 312 terabytes of call records dating back to 2001.

The government has since stepped in, invoking state secrets privilege in an attempt to quash the case:
That privilege allows the government to tell a judge that a civil case may expose information detrimental to national security, and to ask that testimony or documents be hidden or a lawsuit dismissed. That extraordinary executive power was established in English common law and upheld in a 1953 Supreme Court case involving the fatal crash of a secret bomber.
According to Wired, this type of request is almost always agreed to, as judges often take such secrecy claims at face value. According to William Weaver:
"There has never been an unsuccessful invocation of the state secrets privilege when national security is involved. The (EFF) suit is over."
A spokesperson for the Justice Department denied that the government is trying to cover up any wrongdoing:
"When we file certifications of the state secrets privilege, it is because it is felt that certain disclosures will be injurious to the country[.]"
Link (via Digg)

All quotes from the linked article except where otherwise noted.


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