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Lawsuit details AT&T cooperation in illegal government spying on Americans
A lawsuit underway in a US district court in San Francisco charges telecommunications giant AT&T with violating the privacy of its customers by handing over massive amounts of data to the government. The class action lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of AT&T customers, is based on documents provided by a former AT&T employee that detail the company’s participation in the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless spying program that was first revealed late last year.
The documents, obtained by Mark Klein, a former technician at AT&T, are currently under court seal. They were provided to the New York Times by Klein, who also released a statement earlier this month describing what he discovered while working at the company. AT&T has filed a motion to have all the documents returned on the grounds that they are proprietary, but the company has not denied the validity of the documents or Klein’s statements.
If true, Klein’s statements confirm that the spying carried out by the NSA is much broader than has been acknowledged by the government, and has been made possible only through the willing participation of a handful of giant corporations in the US. The NSA program involves a direct violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as well as provisions of the Bill of Rights that prohibit unwarranted search and seizure.
Klein’s revelations strongly suggest a criminal conspiracy between a section of corporate America and the US government.
According to a New York Times article published on April 13, the documents, which the newspaper handed over for examination by four telecommunications and computer security experts, “describe equipment capable of monitoring a large quantity of e-mail messages, Internet phone calls, and other Internet traffic” The equipment “was able to select messages that could be identified by keywords, Internet or e-mail addresses or country of origin and divert copies to another location for further analysis.”
“The technical experts,” the Times reported, “all said the documents showed that AT&T had an agreement with the federal government to systematically gather information flowing on the Internet through the company’s network.”
In a statement released by his lawyers, Klein said that the equipment was installed in a secret room in an AT&T facility in San Francisco, where Klein worked for 23 years before leaving in 2004. Ordinary employees at the company were not allowed access to the room, which was adjacent to the “switches” through which data and phone calls are routed. Klein said that cables connected the switches with the room operated at the behest of the NSA, allowing the government free rein to monitor all communications.