AT&T has been named as defendant in a class action lawsuit, claiming that the telecommunications company illegally provided open access to its cellular network to the National Security Agency’s spy program.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco’s federal district court, claims that AT&T opened its facilities up to the NSA and has a continuing relationship with the NSA “to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit, says AT&T’s alleged cooperation violates free speech and privacy rights found in the U.S. Constitution and also contravenes federal wiretapping law, which prohibits electronic surveillance “except as authorized by statute.”
According to Kevin Bankston, an EFF staff attorney, said he believes that the Bush administration will intervene in the case on behalf of AT&T. “We are definitely going to have a fight with the government and AT&T,” he said.
AT&T made a statement indicating it needed time to review the complain before taking further action. However, AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk told media outlets last week, “We don’t comment on matters of national security,” in response to the recent concern about AT&T’s cooperation with the NSA.
A Los Angeles Times article dated Dec. 26 quoted an unnamed source as saying the NSA has a “direct hookup” into an AT&T database that stores information about all domestic phone calls, including how long they lasted.
The Bush administration has a lawsuit of it’s own, related to a similar matter which was filed earlier this month by the ACLU.
AT&T has 30 days to file a response, which could include a request that the case be dismissed or a motion for summary judgment.