Gov't. May Help Telephone Companies Defend Suits Over Customer Records

The Wall St. Journal reports (free link) that the Government may help the phone companies defend the lawsuits brought over contracts to turn over customer records by asserting a states secret privilege:

The plaintiffs, who accuse Bell phone companies of privacy violations and are seeking billions of dollars in damages, would need to delve into the depths of the NSA's surveillance program to make their cases. But the government considers such information top secret, and legal experts expect the Bush administration to assert the "state secrets" privilege in the 20 or more lawsuits filed by privacy advocates in recent weeks. If judges accept the claim, as has been the case in nearly every instance in which it has been asserted since the early 1950s, the suits will dissolve.

According to one phone company lawyer:

"As it stands right now we have no way to defend against these lawsuits," said one telecom lawyer. "It's equally important to point out that short of a newspaper article the plaintiffs don't have anything to prosecute these cases," he added.

The primary lawsuit is the class action suit against AT&T brought by Electronic Frontier Foundation. EFF lawyer Lee Tien remains optimistic EFF will win the state-secrets issue.

He argues that the government isn't merely a bystander in the case. "They're an intrinsic part of what's going on," Mr. Tien says. "It's a bigger problem from a fairness or due process point of view."

Reuters has more on Wednesday's filing by the Government in the EFF case.

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  • Re: Gov't. May Help Telephone Companies Defend Sui (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Fri May 26, 2006 at 10:54:36 AM EST
    The pot and the kettle do the thumb nose jig center stage. No problem.