In Hepting v. AT&T, EFF sued the telecommunications giant on behalf of its customers for violating privacy law by collaborating with the NSA in the massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.
Evidence in the case included undisputed evidence provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA.
The case was filed on January 31, 2006 and the government quickly intervened. In the Spring of 2006, over 50 other lawsuits were filed against various telecommunications companies, in response to a USA Today article confirming the surveillance of communications and communications records. The cases were combined into a multi-district litigation proceeding called In re NSA. EFF was named co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
In June of 2006, the Court rejected both the government's attempt to dismiss the case on the grounds of the state secret privilege and AT&T's various arguments in favor of dismissal.
In August of 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument on the case. No decision was reached, however In July, 2008, after a long and contentious battle in Congress, the government and AT&T were awarded the so-called retroactive immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FAA), which was enacted in response to our court victories in Hepting. Signed by President Bush in 2008, the FAA allows the Attorney General to require the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. The AG filed the required certification in September of 2008.
In June of 2009, a federal judge dismissed Hepting and dozens of other lawsuits against telecoms. EFF appealed that decision but it was affirmed, and in October, 2012, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.