Surveillance Lawsuit Dismissed

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February 11, 2015
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U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White dismissed part of a lawsuit brought by AT&T customers objecting to dragnet government surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages. 

The lawsuit, filed in 2007, was inspired, in part, by revelations by a former AT&T technician in 2003 that equipment at a San Francisco AT&T facility allowed the National Security Administration (NSA) to conduct what he referred to as "vacuum cleaner" surveillance of all data crossing the Internet.

In 2005, the New York Times reported that the NSA had been conducting warantless wiretapping of domestic phone calls and e-mails with no judicial supervision or warrants.

In 2008, President George W. Bush approved legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that had acted at the government's behest to supply private customer information. 

In his ruling, White said that the government would have to provide secret evidence that would risk grave damage to national security in order to refute the AT&T customers' claims of surveillance. 

White also said that the plaintiffs could not prove that their phone and e-mail data was part of the dragnet surveillance program.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which represents the AT&T customers, plans to appeal the decision.

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