Evidence For Illegal Spying Case Will Remain Under Seal for Now
San Francisco - A federal judge in San Francisco ruled today that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) can use critical evidence in its class-action lawsuit against AT&T. However, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the evidence -- three documents that AT&T alleges are proprietary and contain the company's trade secrets -- will be kept under seal for now.
EFF's suit accuses AT&T of illegally handing over its customers' telephone and Internet records and communications to the National Security Agency (NSA). The evidence at issue was filed as support for EFF's motion for a preliminary injunction against AT&T, seeking to stop the company's ongoing violations of the law and the privacy of its customers.
AT&T had requested that the evidence be returned to AT&T, and not used in the case. Wednesday, Judge Walker denied that request. Although the allegedly proprietary documents will remain under seal, Judge Walker instructed AT&T to work with EFF to narrowly redact any confidential material from EFF's brief and supporting declarations so that they can be made public as soon as possible.
"We're very pleased that the court refused AT&T's unreasonable demand that this critical evidence be returned to AT&T and struck from the record. And, although the evidence itself will stay under seal, the court has asked AT&T to work with us in providing public versions of our legal papers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Taken together with the court's refusal to close the courtroom as AT&T had requested, we think today was a real victory for the public's right to know, and for our ability to litigate this case."
The next hearing in this case -- about AT&T and the U.S. government's motions to dismiss the lawsuit -- is set for June 23.
For more on the AT&T lawsuit:
Electronic Frontier Foundation