April 29, 2006

U.S. seeks to dismiss AT&T secrets suit

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29 - The U.S. government has asked a
federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by a San Francisco civil
liberties group against AT&T because it says the case could
reveal military and state secrets.

The class-action suit by the group, the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, on behalf of AT&T customers accuses the company of
unlawful collaboration with the National Security Agency in its
surveillance program to intercept telephone and e-mail
communications between the United States and people linked to
al Qaeda and affiliated organizations.

President George W. Bush authorized the intercepts
following the September 11 attacks without court approval.

In a "Statement of Interest" filed on Friday, the
government asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to throw out
the suit, saying the government "cannot disclose any
information that may be at issue in this case."

"The government intends to assert the military and state
secrets privilege (that) permits the government to protect
against the unauthorized disclosure in litigation of
information that may harm national security interests," it

"In addition to asserting the state secrets privilege, the
U.S. also intends to file a motion to intervene for the purpose
of seeking dismissal of this case," the filing said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement
issued late on Friday that "evidence regarding AT&T's dragnet
surveillance of its networks, currently filed under seal,
includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T
telecommunications technician, and several internal AT&T

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Saturday that Klein
said the NSA installed a device at AT&T's San Francisco office
in 2003 capable of scanning huge amounts of data to locate
specific targets.

A representative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was
not available on Saturday to discuss the case.

Its statement said much of the evidence in the case was
under court seal because AT&T claims disclosure of the
documents would expose trade secrets. A court hearing on the
issue is scheduled for May 17.