TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Judge Seals Documents in NSA Spying Case

Judge Seals Documents in NSA Spying Case

David Kravets (
Wed, 17 May 2006 14:10:09 -0500

By DAVID KRAVETS, Associated Press Writer

Secret documents that allegedly detail the surveillance of AT&T
Inc. phone and e-mail lines under the Bush administration's domestic
spying program can be used in a lawsuit against the telephone giant, a
federal judge ruled Wednesday, but the records will remain sealed.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker rejected a bid by AT&T to return the
records given to the privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation
by a former AT&T technician. But Walker said the records would remain
under seal until it can be determined whether they reveal trade

"The best course of action is to preserve the status quo," Walker

The hearing is the first in a lawsuit challenging the administration's
secretive domestic surveillance program.

The suit, filed by EFF in U.S. District Court here, accuses AT&T of
illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to make
communications on the company's networks available to the spy agency
without warrants.

"They are asking this court to suppress evidence of AT&T's criminal
activity," EFF lawyer Maria Morris said in arguing that the records
remain part of the case.

"I thought it was unfortunate counsel chose to use the terms 'criminal
activities' and 'crimes,'" AT&T lawyer David Anderson said as he
argued that the records should be returned to the company.

The goal of the lawsuit is to dismantle warrantless eavesdropping on
Americans in the United States, a practice the Bush administration
confirmed in December. EFF's case would have been weakened if the
records provided by the whistleblower were taken from the case.

The case is Hepting v. AT&T Inc., 06-0672.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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