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Federal Judge Refuses to Dismiss Spying Case

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July 25, 2007

Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker refused to stop five states from seeking information about phone company participation in the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. He expressed doubt about the government’s argument that trying the case would jeopardize state secrets, but said he would wait to decide the case until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules on Hepting v. AT&T, the class-action lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Judge Walker had previously rejected a state secrets challenge in that case, which charges AT&T violated its customers’ privacy by cooperating with the NSA’s request for phone records, and the government appealed. The appeal hearings in Hepting is scheduled for August 15 in San Francisco. Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois, is co-class counsel in this case.

If you aren’t familiar with the all of these NSA spying cases, a great primer can be found in the PBS documentary Spying on the Home Front. (It also happens to feature ACLU of Nevada executive director Gary Peck, who talked about the FBI’s attempts to strong-arm Las Vegas casinos into handing over customer information.) The documentary also interviews Mark Klein, the AT&T engineer who discovered the supercomputer the telecom installed for the sole purpose of monitoring internet traffic at the behest of the NSA.