Feb. 22, 2007 – A federal judge in San Francisco ruled Tuesday that evidence will remain sealed in the class-action lawsuit accusing AT&T of collaborating with the government to illegally spy on Americansâ€™ communications.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed the lawsuit against AT&T in January 2006 after reports surfaced that the National Security Agency had embarked on a massive surveillance program by listening to Americansâ€™ phone calls and sifting through their e-mail. EFF alleges that AT&T "has given [the government] unchecked backdoor access to its communications network and its record databases."
In May, several media entities â€“ including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press â€“ had requested that all sealed documents in the case be made available to the public.
AT&T argues that several of the sealed documents contain "proprietary and trade-secret information."
Judge Vaughn Walker denied the media entitiesâ€™ request in part because redacted versions of the documents have already been released. The court, however, did grant the media entitiesâ€™ motion to intervene in the case, and suggested that the issue of unsealing the documents may be revisited at a later date.
In a press statement, EFF expressed its disappointment in the judgeâ€™s decision. "Given that the privacy of millions of Americans is at stake, we strongly believe that the public would benefit from seeing this evidence for themselves," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director.