July 20, 2006

Judge won’t drop AT&T eavesdropping lawsuit

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal judge declined motions
on Thursday to dismiss a lawsuit against AT&T alleging the firm
illegally allowed the U.S. government to monitor phone
conversations and e-mail communications.

AT&T asked the court in late April to dismiss the case, and
two weeks later the U.S. government also asked the federal
judge to dismiss it because of the secrecy of the issue.

In a 72-page ruling on Thursday, Judge Vaughn Walker
rejected that filing in a case that has raised further
attention to the domestic spying program acknowledged by
President George W. Bush.

"The very subject matter of this action is hardly a
secret," the judge wrote. "Public disclosures by the government
and AT&T indicate that AT&T is assisting the government to
implement some kind of surveillance program."

The privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation
says the program allows the government to eavesdrop on phone
calls and read e-mails of millions of Americans without
obtaining warrants. The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction
that would order the government to stop the program.