FAQ


What is EFF's Lawsuit Against AT&T About?

EFF filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal domestic spying program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.


What is the Lawsuit Seeking?

EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public. The lawsuit request an injunction and damages under the statute. The laws provide that the victims can receive damages of at least $21,000 for each affected person.


If the NSA Did The Illegal Wiretapping And Data-Mining, Why Are You Suing AT&T?

Because AT&T violated the law, and the rights of its customers, by allowing and assisting with the illegal wiretapping and data-mining. The government's spying program on ordinary Americans would not be possible without AT&T collaborating in violating your privacy. AT&T should have been standing up for you and your privacy. In this country we follow the law, we don't just follow orders.


Why has EFF brought a class action?

We believe that all AT&T customers have had their privacy violated
by AT&T's actions. And importantly, bringing the case as a class
action the only sure way to make sure AT&T is prohibited from
continuing these illegal actions. A class action ensures that an
injunction against AT&T would apply throughout the country, not
simply in the district in which the lawsuit was filed. Finally, we hope
that the risk of serious statutory damages ($1,000 per subscriber under
the ECPA and up to $10,000 per subscriber under the Telecom Act) will
provide sufficient incentives for AT&T and the other telcos to push
back on the feds with respect to this illegal program and in the future.


Is the fight against warrantless spying on ordinary Americans a
partisan issue?

No. EFF is a non-partisan organization and has consistently opposed
illegal surveillance efforts regardless of which party held the
presidency. Indeed, the opposition to the domestic surveillance
program has come from not just Democrats, but also leading
conservatives. As David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative
Union said, "This is not a partisan issue; it is an issue of
safeguarding the fundamental freedoms of all Americans so that future
administrations do not interpret our laws in ways that pose
constitutional concerns."

Other
leading conservatives who have spoken out
on the domestic
surveillance include:


What is the NSA Domestic Spying Program?

Sometime in 2001, the president authorized the NSA to intercept telephone and Internet communications of Americans inside the United States, without the authorization of any law or court. Under the program, the NSA is intercepting and analyzing millions of ordinary Americans' communications, with the help of the country's largest phone and Internet companies. The president has stated that he authorized the domestic spying in 2001, that he has reauthorized the program more than 30 times since its inception, and intends to continue doing so.


What is the National Security Agency?

The National Security Agency is a United States government intelligence agency that is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications. According to the NSA site, it "coordinates, directs, and performs highly specialized activities to protect U.S. government information systems and produce foreign signals intelligence information."


Is Secretly Wiretapping U.S. Citizens Without Legal Process Prohibited by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?

Yes. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1801 et seq.,
(FISA) provides the exclusive statutory framework for the use of electronic
surveillance in the context of foreign intelligence gathering. It prohibits
surveillance in the United States of communications to or from a person in the
United States, unless authorized by statute. With limited exceptions, this
means that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) must
authorize such surveillance.


What is the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)?

The FISC is a special court set up by FISA that meets in secret to decide whether to authorize electronic surveillance in the context of foreign intelligence gathering. Only the government is allowed to appear before this court.


What Standard Must Be Met Under the Domestic Spying Program?

"Reasonable basis." According to U.S. Attorney General Gonzales, the standard is "a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in support of al Qaeda." This is a lower standard that the "probable cause" required under FISA.


Does the domestic spying program produce better results than FISA?

No. Recent reports have shown that the data from this wholesale
surveillance did little more than commit FBI resources to follow up
leads, "virtually all of [which], current and former officials say, led
to dead ends or innocent Americans."

"We'd chase a number, find it's a school teacher with no
indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case
closed," said one former FBI official, who was aware of the program and
the data it generated for the bureau. "After you get a thousand numbers
and not one is turning up anything, you get some
frustration."

Lowell Bergman, et al, href="http://nytimes.com/2006/01/17/politics/17spy.html">Spy Agency Data
After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends, NY Times, Jan. 17, 2005.

Wasting counter-terrorism resources on innocent school teachers makes
America no safer and less free.


Who Decides Whether the "Reasonable Basis" Test is Met to Conduct Domestic Spying?

NSA shift supervisors. According to U.S. Attorney General Gonzales, the "judgment is made by the operational work force at the National Security Agency using the information available to them at the time, and the standard that they apply -- and it's a two-person standard that must be signed off by a shift supervisor..." Under FISA, the federal FISC judges decide if the standard is met. Only five times out of over 19,000 applications have the FISC judges refused to allow the surveillance under the higher "probable cause" standard required by FISA.


What's AT&T's Role in the Program?

EFF alleges that under the NSA domestic spying program, major
telecommunications companies-and AT&T specifically-gave the NSA direct
access to their vast databases of communications records, including information
about whom their customers have phoned or emailed with in the past. EFF alleges
that AT&T, in addition to allowing the NSA direct access to the phone and
Internet communications passing over its network, and gave the government
unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte " href="http://www.research.att.com/projects/daytona/">Daytona" database of
caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world.


Is the Domestic Spying Program Larger than Described?

Yes. When the government attempts to describe limits to the domestic spying
program, note how carefully those comments are limited to "the NSA activities
described by the President." This does not foreclose the possibility that
there are more activities than described by the President, and numerous news
reports have described a far wider program, which surveils the
communications of ordinary Americans. This case is about AT&T's collaboration
with the entire domestic spying program.


Are Ordinary American's Communications Exposed by AT&T Collaboration?

Yes. The lawsuit alleges that AT&T's has provided the government with unfettered access to the communications records of ordinary Americans whose communications go through the AT&T network. Some individuals may be singled out for further investigation and more extensive wiretapping, but this case is not about specific targeted information that a court has ordered AT&T to produce, but rather wholesale access all communications records in the AT&T database and the information transiting AT&T's compromised switches.


Who exactly is the case against?

Both AT&T Inc. and AT&T Corp. AT&T Inc. is the new name of SBC Communications, which acquired AT&T Corp. in November 2005. At closing, a wholly owned subsidiary of SBC merged with and into AT&T Corp., and thus AT&T Corp. became a wholly owned subsidiary of SBC. SBC adopted AT&T, Inc. as its name following completion of its acquisition of AT&T Corp.


Why is the Case Against Both AT&Ts?

While the case focuses on the acts of AT&T Corp. (pre-merger), AT&T Inc. has begun a transition process designed to integrate the former SBC's telecommunications network with AT&T Corp.'s network, ultimately leading into unified networks. The lawsuit alleges that the facilities and technologies of the former SBC are being or will imminently be used to transmit the communications of AT&T Corp. customers, and will continue the violation of the privacy of its customers.


If the lawsuit succeeds will the government still be able to surveil
terrorists?

Yes. Wiretaps on terrorists are allowed under the law, and this
lawsuit is not challenging the wiretap laws.

We have sued AT&T for breaking those laws—the
telecommunications giant gave the government access to its
communications switches and its huge databases of information on
millions of ordinary Americans.

These are AT&T customers who have not even been accused of
affiliations with terrorists.

Americans can be both safe and free: if the government truly believes it
has cause to wiretap a suspect, it can order AT&T to provide
information under FISA—for up to 72 hours before going to the
court. But AT&T has no business providing direct access to the
communications of millions of ordinary Americans, without the checks and
balances of Congress or the courts.


What is Daytona?

Daytona is a database management technology originally developed and maintained
by the AT&T Laboratories division of AT&T, and is used by AT&T to
manage multiple databases. href="http://www.research.att.com/projects/daytona/">Daytona was designed
to handle very large databases and is used to manage "Hawkeye," AT&T's call
detail record (CDR) database. Daytona is also used to manage AT&T's huge
network-security database, known as "Aurora." As of September 2005, all of the
CDR data managed by Daytona, when uncompressed, totaled more than 312
terabytes.


What is Hawkeye?

Hawkeye is AT&T's call detail record (CDR) database, which contains records of nearly every telephone communication carried over its domestic network since approximately 2001, records that include the originating and terminating phone numbers and the time and length for each call.


What is Aurora?

Aurora is a network-security database that had been used to store Internet traffic data since approximately 2003. The Aurora database contains huge amounts of data acquired by firewalls, routers, honeypots and other devices on AT&T's global IP (Internet Protocol) network and other networks connected to AT&T's network.


How Many Calls Go Through AT&T?

By the end of 2004, on an average business day, AT&T Corp.'s network handled over 300 million voice calls as well as over 4,000 terabytes (million megabytes) of data. To understand the scale of this flow of information, it is approximately 200 times the amount of data contained in all the books in the Library of Congress.


How Many Customers Did AT&T Have?

By the end of 2004, AT&T Corp. provided long distance service (including both stand-alone and bundled) to approximately 24.6 million residential customers, dropping from approximately 34.4 million customers at the end of 2003. Before the acquisition, AT&T Corp.'s bundled local and long distance service was available in 46 states, covering more than 73 million households.


How Big is the New AT&T Inc.?

The new AT&T Inc. constitutes the largest telecommunications provider in the United States and one of the largest in the world. AT&T Inc. is the largest U.S. provider of both local and long distance services, serving millions of customers nationwide. AT&T Inc.'s international voice service carries more than 18 billion minutes per year, reaching 240 countries, linking 400 carriers and offering remote access via 19,500 points of presence in 149 countries around the globe. A point of presence is a facility where a long-distance carrier connects to a local telephone network.


Why Are the First and Fourth Amendments at Issue for AT&T?

Because AT&T is acting as the government's agent in the government's violation
of the Bill of Rights. Accordingly, the lawsuit makes Constitutional claims in
addition to alleging that AT&T violated the wiretap and telecommunications
laws.


What Can I do To Help?

Lawsuits take a tremendous amount of time, energy, and financial resources.
The only way non-profits such as EFF can afford to pursue them are through the
kind and generous donations of individuals such as you. If you believe in what
we are fighting for, please consider
donating
to support our efforts.

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

Tomorrow at @sfiaf in San Francisco, join EFF for "Edward Snowden Revelations and the Public Right to Know." https://eff.org/r.v9n2

May 29 @ 4:33pm

EFF supporters get 20% off registration for @ISSALA's Information Security #Summit7 next week: https://eff.org/r.s2qt

May 29 @ 1:36pm

Higher max sentences for "material support" won't prevent terrorism—but will chill First Amendment rights. https://eff.org/r.x49r

May 29 @ 1:19pm
JavaScript license information