Filed to Intervene in AT&T Secrets Case
Saturday, May 13, 2006
WASHINGTON - The U.S. government filed a motion on Saturday
to intervene and seek dismissal of a lawsuit by a civil
liberties group against AT&T Inc. over a federal program to
monitor U.S. communications.
The suit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern
District of California accuses AT&T of unlawful
collaboration with the National Security Agency in its
surveillance program to intercept telephone and e-mail
communications between the United States and people linked
to al Qaeda and affiliated organizations.
The class-action suit was filed by San Francisco-based
Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers
in January -- before reports this week that AT&T and two
other phone companies were secretly helping the government
compile a massive database of phone calls made in the United
In its motion seeking intervention, posted on the court's
Web site, the government said the interests of the parties
in the lawsuit "may well be in the disclosure of state
secrets" in their effort to present their claims or
"Only the United States is in a position to protect against
the disclosure of information over which it has asserted the
state secrets privilege, and the United States is the only
entity properly positioned to explain why continued
litigation of the matter threatens the national security,"
said the motion, dated May 12.
A hearing is scheduled for June 21 before federal Judge
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said in court filings
that a former AT&T technician had approached the group in
January to share details of the company's role in the
The revelation in December that the NSA was eavesdropping
inside the United States without warrants on international
calls and e-mails of terrorism suspects sparked an uproar.
On Thursday, USA Today reported that the NSA, helped by
AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., was
secretly collecting phone records of tens of millions of
people, and using the data to analyze calling patterns in an
effort to detect terrorist activity.
President Bush denied the government was "mining and
trolling through" the personal lives of Americans.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited