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EFF to Urge Reform of State Secrets Privilege at Tuesday Congressional Hearing

New Legislation Could Clear Path for Telecom Spying Lawsuits to Proceed in Court
PRESS RELEASE
January 25, 2008
New Legislation Could Clear Path for Telecom Spying Lawsuits to Proceed in Court

Washington, D.C. - On Tuesday, January 29, at 9:30 a.m, members of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on reform of the state secrets privilege, which the Executive Branch has often used in recent years to hinder judicial inquiry into controversial anti-terrorism policies such as the CIA's rendition program and the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program.

Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) will appear at Tuesday's hearing to explain how the Administration has abused the privilege by seeking dismissal of all lawsuits concerning the NSA program -- including EFF's lawsuit against AT&T for assisting with the NSA -- based on blanket assertions of secrecy. Bankston will urge the committee to pass legislation to reform the privilege and clear the way for such lawsuits to proceed in court fairly and securely. Such reform is the most appropriate response to phone companies like AT&T that are lobbying Congress for retroactive amnesty, based on the claim that the government's assertion of the state secrets privilege prevents them from defending themselves.

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. The Hepting case is just one of many suits aimed at holding telecoms responsible for knowingly violating federal privacy laws with warrantless wiretapping and the illegal transfer of vast amounts of personal data to the government. A recent poll found that 57 percent of likely voters opposed letting the telecoms off the hook for these suits.

WHO:
Kevin Bankston
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

WHAT:
Oversight Hearing on Reform of the State Secrets Privilege
U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties

WHERE:
2141 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C.

WHEN:
9:30 a.m.
Tuesday, January 29

For more on the hearing:
http://judiciary.house.gov/oversight.aspx?ID=404

For more on the NSA spying:
http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying

Contact:

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

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