White House trying to get suit against NSA thrown out of court

| Mon May 1, 2006 8:18 PM EDT

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, filed a class action suit against the government at the end of January, claiming that AT&T's alleged cooperation with the National Security Agency in eavesdropping on Americans violates Constitutionally guaranteed free speech and privacy rights. AT&T has not responded to the suit, but on Friday, the U.S. Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest, saying it intends to intervene and have the suit tossed out of court. The government plans to invoke the State Secrets privilege.

According to the EFF:

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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