The Justice Department said Friday it was moving to dismiss a federal lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s secretive domestic wiretapping program.
The lawsuit, brought by the Internet privacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation, does not include the government.
Instead, it names AT&T, which the San Francisco-based group accuses of colluding with the National Security Agency to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants.
The government, in a filing here late Friday, said the lawsuit threatens to expose government and military secrets and therefore should be tossed. The administration added that its bid to intervene in the case should not be viewed as a concession that the allegations are true.
As part of its case, the EFF said it obtained documents from a former AT&T technician showing that the NSA is capable of monitoring all communications on AT&T’s network, and those documents are under seal. The former technician said the documents detail secret NSA spying rooms and electronic surveillance equipment in AT&T facilities.
Documents to be made public?
Next month, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker will hold a hearing on whether they should be divulged publicly.
President Bush confirmed in December that the NSA has been conducting the surveillance when calls and e-mails, in which at least one party is outside the United States, are thought to involve al-Qaida terrorists.
In congressional hearings earlier this month, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested the president could order the NSA to listen in on purely domestic calls without first obtaining a warrant from a secret court established nearly 30 years ago to consider such issues.
Gonzales said the administration, assuming the conversation related to al-Qaida, would have to determine if the surveillance were crucial to the nation’s fight against terrorism, as authorized by Congress following the Sept. 11 attacks.
The EFF lawsuit, alleging AT&T violated U.S. law and its customers’ privacy, seeks to stop the surveillance program.
The San Antonio-based telecommunications giant said it follows all applicable laws.