March 6, 2008 | By Hugh D'Andrade

Tash Hepting: "It's not about the money."

If Tash Hepting’s name sounds familiar to DeepLinks readers, it’s because he is lead plaintiff in the case EFF is heading up against AT&T for it’s participation in the government’s warrantless wiretapping program – that is, Hepting v. AT&T.

Mr. Hepting is adding his voice to that of other plaintiffs who have spoken out recently, telling their side of the story about why they decided to sue the government. In an interview on NPR this morning, he objected to the President’s portrayal of the suits as being led by “trial lawyers” out to hop on some sort of “financial gravy train”.

Frankly I was more than a little insulted by that. I have a very principled stand on this, and a very strong belief about it. It’s not about the money, it’s about wrong and right, it’s about obeying the rule of law and it’s about repercussions when you break the law.

Hepting also spoke with the Wall Street Journal. The article is only available behind the site’s pay wall, but is worth a look. Hepting does a great job explaining his personal reasons for being involved in the case:

Tash Hepting, of Hepting v. AT&T, had remained silent as Washington hashes out an impasse over whether to grant immunity to phone companies, as the White House wishes, which would kill this lawsuit and the 37 others. Mr. Hepting now says he filed suit, with the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-liberties advocacy group, largely because of the experiences of his father, Rick Hepting, a short-wave-radio enthusiast in the 1950s and 1960s. The elder Mr. Hepting was told by the government that it was reading his mail because he had made contact with a Chinese radio station, the younger Mr. Hepting says.

As a teenager, the elder Mr. Hepting collected so-called QSL cards that acknowledged contact with other radio stations. He was thrilled to receive one from a Chinese radio station he encountered, his son says.

He also began to receive Chinese communist propaganda. Not long after, he received notification from the U.S. government that his international mail was being read, according to the younger Mr. Hepting and his mother, Sandra Miller.

Tash Hepting and the other plaintiffs in these cases have taken a principled stand against illegal surveillance, representing the millions of ordinary Americans who have had their communications intercepted by the NSA thanks to AT&T’s willingness to break the law. These people deserve their day in court. Act now to stop retroactive immunity for telecom lawbreakers!

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