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US telco AT&T is being sued over allegations it helped the National Security Agency (NSA) in its "massive and illegal program" to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

A class-action lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) alleges AT&T collaborated with with ultra-secretive communications agency in intercepting communications without court authorisation. The practice of so-called warrantless wiretapping came to light after the New York Times reported that the president had authorised the agency to intercept communications inside the US.

The EFF alleges that some telecom firms, including AT&T, had given the NSA direct access to their databases of communications records. This allows spies to see data on who customers had called or emailed. In its lawsuit (filed Tuesday 31 January), the EFF alleges that AT&T, in addition to allowing unlawful wiretaps, gave the government "unfettered access" to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information. AT&T collaboration with the NSA breached longstanding communications privacy laws, the EFF charges.

"The NSA program is apparently the biggest fishing expedition ever devised, scanning millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls and emails for 'suspicious' patterns, and it's the collaboration of US telecom companies like AT&T that makes it possible," said EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston.

Other organisation are suing the US government over warrant-less wiretapping. EFF's lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop AT&T participation in the "illegal NSA program", as well as billions of dollars in damages for violation of federal privacy laws. Working with EFF in the lawsuit are the law firms Traber & Voorhees, and Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins LLP. EFF's complaint (PDF) can be found here and there's more background on the suit here. ®

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