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6/24/2006
02:17 AM
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AT&T Denies Allegations In Spy Program Participation Lawsuit

The company maintains that statutory and common law immunities protect corporations from civil laws that allege cooperation with government agencies for national security reasons.

While the U.S. government stepped up to defend AT&T against a lawsuit claiming it cooperated in an illegal spy program, the telecommunications company said Friday that plaintiffs' conflict is with the government.

The U.S. government wants to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) class-action lawsuit against AT&T. The suit accuses the telecommunications company of helping the National Security Agency (NSA) spy on its customers.

The company issued a statement after a judge in San Francisco held a hearing on a motion to dismiss the suit. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker did not rule on the case after the hearing Friday.

"We asked the judge to dismiss this lawsuit based on a series of statutory and common law immunities that exempt corporations from civil lawsuits which contain claims or allegations that the companies cooperated with government or law enforcement agencies regarding national security matters," the company stated in the release.

The company stated that even if it acted as alleged, AT&T cannot be sued.

"The real dispute is with the government. Congress gave companies this immunity to ensure their cooperation with critical national security issues. Additionally, the U.S. government has expressly told us that the law does not allow AT&T to comment in any way on these specific allegations involving national security. To do so would be breaking the law."

EFF, on the other hand, has posted nearly every document not under seal in the case, including partially redacted testimony from former AT&T employees.

AT&T stated that it obeys the law and does not provide customer information to law enforcement or the government without legal authorization. The company recently updated its customer privacy policy

The government has also argued that it cannot comment on the lawsuit, for the same reason it wants the case dropped without consideration of whether the program is legal. The federal government is trying to stop the lawsuit from going forward, saying that could expose state secrets.

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