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AT&T Must Face Justice for Illegal Spying

August 15, 2007

AT&T Must Face Justice for Illegal Spying

NSA Surveillance Comes Under Fire Today in Appeals Court Battle

San Francisco - In a packed San Francisco courtroom today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow AT&T customers to continue to fight against illegal spying on their telephone and Internet communications.

EFF is representing the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the giant telco of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in domestic surveillance. The U.S. government is fighting to get the class-action lawsuit thrown out of court, contending that the litigation jeopardizes state secrets.

"The courts cannot permit the government to evade responsibility for unconstitutional activities with thin claims of 'state secrets.' Without judicial review, there is no way to stop abuses of power," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The courts are well equipped to protect state secrets while determining whether the spying is illegal and if so, to put a stop to it."

"In trying to shut down this case, the government is hoping to avoid accountability for spying on millions of AT&T customers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Our system of checks and balances is supposed to thwart abuses of power. The White House is trying to wiggle out of those checks by taking the courts out of the picture."

Also Wednesday, the court heard arguments on the future of Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation v. Bush, a case alleging that the federal agents illegally wiretapped calls between the charity and its lawyers. The government also wants this case dismissed on state secrets grounds.

"The President is trying to hide behind a veil of false secrecy to evade a judicial determination that he broke the law. We're asking the court to see through that ploy," said Jon B. Eisenberg of Eisenberg and Hancock, LLP, attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs.

C-SPAN television recorded today's hearing and said it would air later in the day.

The appeals court did not make a ruling Wednesday. The decision will be released at a later date.

Contacts:

Rebecca Jeschke
Media Coordinator
Electronic Frontier Foundation
press@eff.org

Jon B. Eisenberg
Attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs
Eisenberg and Hancock, LLP
jon@eandhlaw.com

Ashlee Albies
Attorney for the Al-Haramain plaintiffs
ashlee@albieslaw.com

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