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Motion Filed to Intervene in AT&T Secrets Case
Reuters
money.aol.com
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 States.

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 defenses.

"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 Vaughn Walker.

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 surveillance program.

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

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