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Judge dismisses ACLU spy suit

The campaign seeking to force AT&T to respond to allegations that it illegally tapped customers’ phones was struck a blow late yesterday when a US judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU suit was filed in Illinois on behalf of Chicago author Studs Terkel and other local residents, and is one of several cases challenging the alleged actions of AT&T in divulging the telephone records of its customers to the federal government without lawful authorisation.

But US District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly Tuesday granted a motion by the United States Department of Justice, that the need to protect “state secrets” necessitated dismissing the lawsuit.

But while the dismissal may come as a blow to those seeking clarification of AT&T’s involvement in the scandal, it has no bearing on the other cases being filed, including one by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Just last week US District Judge Vaughn Walker refused the DoJ’s motion to dismiss the case. “The compromise between liberty and security remains a difficult one. But dismissing this case at the outset would sacrifice liberty for no apparent enhancement of security.”

Meanwhile, speaking on the dismissal of the ACLU case, the organisations legal director, Harvey Grossman, said “AT&T – should not be able to escape accountability for violating a federal statute and the privacy of their customers on the basis that a program widely discussed in public is secret. Members of Congress publicly discussed the program of gathering data from telephone companies without lawful authorization in violation of existing federal law.”

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