ACLU vs AT&T Surveillance Lawsuit Thrown Out

ACLU vs AT&T Surveillance Lawsuit Thrown Out


I figured this was the most likely outcome:

Judge dismisses phone records lawsuit

Citing national security, a federal judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T Inc. from giving telephone records to the government for use in the war on terror.

“The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government’s intelligence activities,” U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

A number of such lawsuits have been filed around the country in the wake of news media reports that AT&T and other phone companies had turned records over to the National Security Administration, which specializes in communications intercepts.

Kennelly’s ruling was in sharp contrast to last week’s decision from U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker of San Francisco, who said media reports of the program were so widespread there was no danger of spilling secrets. more

However this one didn’t get shot down:

Judge’s Refusal to Dismiss EFF’s Spying Case Sets Stage for Congressional Showdown
Ruling Comes as Senators Consider Dramatic Changes to Surveillance Law

San Francisco – A federal judge has refused to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) case against AT&T for collaborating with the NSA in illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans, setting the stage for a congressional showdown over proposed dramatic changes in federal surveillance law.

EFF filed the class-action suit against AT&T in January, alleging that the telecommunications company has given the National Security Agency (NSA) secret, direct access to the phone calls and emails going over its network and has been handing over communications logs detailing the activities of millions of ordinary Americans. The government intervened in the case and asked that it be dismissed because the suit could expose “state secrets.” But Thursday, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker refused: “The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one. But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.” more

I’m willing to bet that the EFF’s suit will produce better results than Arlen Specter’s wimpy bill.

  • Sean Aqui

    I don’t see the first judge’s reasoning. Everybody now assumes that AT&T is cooperating, so confirming it wouldn’t harm security. Showing that it hadn’t happened — yet — wouldn’t make terrorists flock to AT&T.

    Outlawing the practice might convey useful info to terrorists, but so what? That’s the price we pay for living in a free society under the rule of law. If I’m a criminal, I know my Miranda rights and that my home cannot be searched without a warrant. Knowing the law helps me find ways around it; but that doesn’t mean we should eliminate such protections, or keep them secret.

    I could see his point if the trial might expose truly damaging operational details of ongoing programs. But that shouldn’t be a get-out-of-court-free card for the government. There has to be a way to publicly contest and discuss our government’s actions. A model might be what happened in a previous row over the Patriot Act, when the ACLU was allowed to argue before the secret FISA Court of Review.

    The EFF suit, if it proceeds, will simply force Congress to make a decision on the eavesdropping case. If Specter’s bill is the best Congress is willing to do, It may simply trump the suit by expressly legalizing such activity.

  • Dyre42

    There is the possibility that the EFF loses and appeals to the SCOTUS and its hard for me to speculate whether the SCOTUS would take the case and how they would rule if they chose to do so.