Feeds

Telcos prepare for the worst as wiretap cases head West

And then there was one

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Valley Justice AT&T and other telcos had better unlock the file cabinets and brace for the backlash because the mother lode of wiretapping cases has just landed in unfriendly territory.

Both the Feds and the telcos earlier this month took a hit when the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated the pretrial proceedings of 17 different warrantless wiretapping suits that accuse the telcos of forming uncomfortable ties with the NSA. The Panel placed the cases under the supervision of Judge Vaughn Walker of the District Court for the Northern District of California. Yes, that’s right, the same judge who last month denied the government’s motion to block discovery in one of the cases on state secret grounds.

This move has huge significance, since the pretrial proceedings for the other suits involve many of the same issues that Judge Walker has already ruled upon. For example, Judge Walker has shown a willingness to let discovery of corporate records proceed in a case involving AT&T’s alleged complicity in the interception of telephone calls, so he will most likely allow additional plaintiffs to demand documents and other evidence from telcos in similar suits.

But don’t get too excited, discovery junkies.

The government brought the motion for consolidation in order to tighten access to confidential information and prevent leaks. With 17 separate cases, the chances that confidential information will find its way from a judge’s chambers into the media are increased by a factor of, well, 17. With only one judge involved, the chances for a nice, juicy leak drop significantly.

Still, the government has to be smarting over this move.

The Feds had originally looked to place the cases under the auspice of a judge in the District of Columbia. This represented a fine strategic move, since federal decisions coming out of D.C. tend to favor the government.

The Panel, sensibly enough, felt that a transfer to a court that had already seen the classified information would better serve the consolidation motion’s goal of limiting exposure to sensitive data. They then proceeded to send the cases to a much, much less favorable venue from the government’s perspective.

The Feds should’ve been careful what they wished for.

And why did the Panel send the cases to the Northern District,? Well, the Panel suggests that the California case has progressed to the most advanced stage. There’s also the fact that the California judge has seen more confidential material since his case dealt with both warrantless wiretaps and the release of customer data, while a similar Illinois case dealt only with the latter.

Reading the tealeaves, you could argue that the consolidation out West also shows that the general mood among jurists in the country is leaning towards a full airing of the secrets behind the wiretap programs. We like to believe this explanation, if only because it ever-so-slightly renews our faith in the system, along with our belief in truth, justice, beauty and the rest of it.

And in these days of domestic spying and militarism, we need all the help we can get. ®

Kevin Fayle is an attorney, web editor and writer in San Francisco. He keeps a close eye on IP and International Law issues.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Premier League wants to PURGE ALL FOOTIE GIFs from social media
Not paying Murdoch? You're gonna get a right LEGALLING - thanks to automated software
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ballmer quits Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Online tat bazaar eBay coughs to YET ANOTHER outage
Web-based flea market struck dumb by size and scale of fail
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.