March 31, 2006 | By Derek Slater

EFF Motion in AT&T Surveillance Case Draws Government's Eye

EFF filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its class-action lawsuit against AT&T today. However, much of the evidence that was to be included in the motion—as well as the legal arguments based on that evidence—was held back temporarily at the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ). While the government is not a party to the case, DOJ attorneys told EFF that even providing the evidence under seal to the court—a well-established procedure that prohibits public access and permits only the judge and the litigants to see the evidence—might not be sufficient security.

EFF's motion seeks to stop AT&T from violating the law and the privacy of its customers by disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications, as part of the National Security Agency's (NSA's) massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications. The motion was supported by a number of internal AT&T documents that the government now claims might include classified information.

EFF will seek the Court's permission to publicly release the preliminary injunction motion and supporting documents, and hopes to have redacted versions available after further discussions with the government.

"Openness in court proceedings is fundamental to a free society," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "The facts supporting our motion are not classified and are important to the public debate over the propriety of the NSA domestic spying program. The public deserves to know the truth."

The NSA program came to light in December, when the New York Times reported that the President had authorized the agency to intercept telephone and Internet communications inside the United States without the authorization of any court. Over the ensuing weeks, it became clear that the NSA program has been intercepting and analyzing millions of Americans' communications, with the help of the country's largest phone and Internet companies, including AT&T. This surveillance is ongoing, and today's injunction motion seeks to stop the spying while the case is pending.

"AT&T's wholesale diversion of communications into the hands of the NSA violates federal wiretapping laws and the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "More than just threatening individuals' privacy, AT&T's shameful choice to allow the government to spy on millions of ordinary Americans' communications is a threat to the Constitution itself. We are asking the Court to put a stop to it now."

In the lawsuit, EFF is representing the class of all AT&T residential customers nationwide. Working with EFF in the lawsuit are the law firms Traber & Voorhees, Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP and the Law Office of Richard R. Wiebe.

For the motion for preliminary injunction:
Brief and some evidence NOT AVAILABLE BY DOJ REQUEST

For more on EFF's suit:

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