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DoJ intervenes in 'warrantless' wiretapping lawsuit

Secrets and lies

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The US government is seeking to quash a lawsuit against file by privacy group the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) over a controversial "warrantless" wiretapping program.

On Saturday, the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T on the grounds of national security. The EFF said it will vigorously contest the lawsuit.

The DoJ motion comes as little surprise as the government previously declared an interest in the case back in April.

Nonetheless, the EFF reacted with indignation to the DoJ motion. It said the NSA's illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications, ought not to escape scrutiny on the "spurious" grounds that it's a state secret.

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

The EFF lawsuit 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.

Its alleged that some telecom firms, including AT&T, gave 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 in 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's collaboration with the NSA breached longstanding communications privacy laws, the EFF charges.

An EFF web page explains the background to the case in full here. ®

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