January 9, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
ACLU Provides Highlights of Key Dates in Upcoming Cases
NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union continues its campaign to end illegal wiretapping by the National Security Agency. Below are a series of updates on pending cases and related actions:
ACLU v. NSA - In a case filed on behalf of journalists, lawyers and academics, the ACLU obtained an injunction requiring the President to shut down the illegal NSA spying program. In the first and so far the only court opinion on the legality of the warrantless wiretap program, a district court declared the program unconstitutional and called for an immediate halt to this abuse of presidential power. The government has appealed the lower court’s decision and there will be a hearing before Judges Alice Batchelder, Ronald Gilman and Julia Gibbons the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 31. Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU, will argue on behalf of the organization.
Terkel v. AT&T - The ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit on behalf of author Studs Terkel and other activists who challenged the disclosure of customer records by AT&T to the NSA as a violation of federal statutes protecting privacy in electronic communications. The court agreed with the government that allowing the records disclosure claim to proceed would jeopardize national security. However the court declined to permanently bar the claim and allowed the case to be amended to also challenge the disclosure of the content of calls. The ACLU of Illinois then filed an amended complaint which has been consolidated in California with more than 40 cases from around the country posing similar challenges. The cases are now before Judge Vaughn Walker of the District Court of the Northern District of California.
ACLU v. AT&T and Verizon - The three ACLU affiliates in California, Northern California, Southern California and San Diego, filed a lawsuit under state law in the California courts against AT&T and Verizon to stop them from participating in the NSA’s illegal wiretapping program. This case was also transferred to the federal court in San Francisco, along with Terkel and the other federal cases against the telecommunications companies. On December 21, 2006, ACLU California affiliates presented argument to the federal judge arguing that their case should be transferred back to the California state court. We are waiting for a decision on this issue.
Hepting v. AT&T - The Electronic Frontier Foundation brought a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for turning over the content of customer information and for disclosing customer records as part of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program. The U.S. government tried to get the case dismissed, arguing that allowing it to proceed would harm national security. A federal district court in California decided that the claim challenging AT&T’s provision of the content of calls to the government (but not the records claim) should be allowed to proceed. The government is now appealing that decision to the 9th Circuit in California.
- Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois, along with EFF attorneys, has been appointed co-lead coordinating counsel for all the cases that have been consolidated in California and co-class counsel for all of the cases against AT&T
ACLU takes on Public Utility Commissions - The ACLU has asked PUCs in 24 states to investigate the phone companies and their compliance with the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program.
- As noted above, Harvey Grossman, Legal Director of the ACLU of Illinois, along with EFF attorneys, has been appointed co-lead coordinating counsel for all the cases that have been consolidated in California and co-class counsel for all of the cases against AT&T.
- In Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, and Missouri the government filed federal lawsuits to prevent PUCs, at the ACLU's urging, from investigating the program. The government also filed a separate lawsuit in New Jersey to stop subpoenas about the program. The phone companies have moved to consolidate and transfer the cases to California. At a hearing in Florida before the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation scheduled for January 25, the Maine affiliate will argue that the cases should remain independent.
- The ACLU continues to pursue PUC complaints in numerous other states with the intent that they will initiate further investigations as more information about the illegal program comes to light through Congressional hearings
Key Upcoming Dates
January 25 - Before the Multidistrict Litigation Panel, the Maine affiliate of the ACLU will argue that its lawsuit against the state Public Utility Commission should be heard in Maine, and not transferred and consolidated with other lawsuits against the phone companies. Also on the docket for that day are the transfer motions for lawsuits pending in Connecticut, Vermont, Missouri and New Jersey.
The hearing will be at the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, 301 North Miami Avenue, Miami, FL at 9:30 a.m.
January 31 - The ACLU will urge the 6th Circuit of Appeals to reject the government’s attempt to overturn a lower court’s decision holding the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program illegal. Five ”friend-of-the-court” briefs in support o the ruling have been filed on behalf of Bar Associations, constitutional scholars, civil rights groups, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and jointly on behalf of the Center for National Security Studies and the Constitution Project. More information is available at: www.aclu.org/nsaspying.
The hearing will be at 100 East Fifth Street, 540 Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse, Cincinnati, OH at 3:00 p.m.
In addition, materials from a news conference today that addressed Congressional oversight on civil liberties are available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/general/27889prs20070109.html.