The federal government has moved to crush a class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco that accuses AT&T of illegally giving the government data on the communications of millions of Americans, claiming the suit would cause ``exceptionally grave harm'' to national security were it to be tried.
The lawsuit involves matters so secret they can't be discussed without revealing how the United States is tracking down terrorist enemies, according to a motion filed late Friday night by the U.S. Department of Justice in U.S. Northern District Court.
Filed in January by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the suit accuses the phone company of helping the National Security Agency scoop up and ``data-mine'' the records of millions of domestic and international telephone and Internet communications without search warrants. The lawsuit was filed after press accounts in December of a massive government telephone snooping operation.
It gained traction late last week with a report in USA Today that said AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth were helping the NSA monitor the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. The report caused an uproar in Washington.
Though not a defendant in the lawsuit, the Justice Department seeks to intervene with a ``states secrets privilege'' over information that reasonably could be expected to surface during a trial. It is asking for a hearing June 21 on its motion...
While neither confirming nor denying the allegations in the lawsuit, the motion asserted that courts have affirmed a president's right to monitor for foreign intelligence purposes without a warrant.
``Everything that might actually give somebody an opportunity to respond to what they're saying is hidden in the secret parts,'' complained Lee Tien, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. ``They don't come out and say what is a state secret in this case.''
My phone calls are my private business and intellectual property. They are not "state secrets." And even so, Létat c'est nous. We are the folks who are ultimately the power in this country, despite pretensions to the contrary by George W. Bush and his supporters.
If they're secrets, they're our secrets, and in this case, the immediacy of needs of defense are outweighed by our ability to exercise our power as a people: to bring those in government who are guilty of crimes to justice.
Rove is expected to be frogmarched shortly (hopefully as Joe Wilson wanted it). It's time that this NSA affair was brought out into the open.
One other thing: the Bush' regime's argument is nonsense on its face. Suppose there are indeed secret national technical means for eavesdropping on communications. (There are, of course.) How would disclosure of that - obvious to anyone "skilled in the art" allow people to get around it other than the way they do now- the way the Mafia has for decades? Measure and countermeasure are so well known by now, that it would be absurd to think this gambit is anything other than an attempt to obstruct justice.