May 13, 2006

Motion filed to intervene in AT&T secrets case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government filed a motion
on Saturday to intervene and seek dismissal of a lawsuit by a
civil liberties group against AT&T Inc. over a federal program
to monitor U.S. communications.

The suit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern
District of California accuses AT&T 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

The class-action suit was filed by San Francisco-based
Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers in
January -- before reports this week that AT&T and two other
phone companies were secretly helping the government compile a
massive database of phone calls made in the United States.

In its motion seeking intervention, posted on the court's
Web site, the government said the interests of the parties in
the lawsuit "may well be in the disclosure of state secrets" in
their effort to present their claims or defenses.

"Only the United States is in a position to protect against
the disclosure of information over which it has asserted the
state secrets privilege, and the United States is the only
entity properly positioned to explain why continued litigation
of the matter threatens the national security," said the
motion, dated May 12.

A hearing is scheduled for June 21 before federal Judge
Vaughn Walker.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has said in court
filings that a former AT&T technician had approached the group
in January to share details of the company's role in the
surveillance program.

The revelation in December that the NSA was eavesdropping
inside the United States without warrants on international
calls and e-mails of terrorism suspects sparked an uproar.

On Thursday, USA Today reported that the NSA, helped by
AT&T, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., was
secretly collecting phone records of tens of millions of
people, and using the data to analyze calling patterns in an
effort to detect terrorist activity.

President Bush denied the government was "mining and
trolling through" the personal lives of Americans.