A federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) can go forward with its class action lawsuit against AT&T for collaborating with the US government on illegal spying on Americans. The judge denied requests by AT&T and the government to freeze proceedings during an appeal.
In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker allowed EFF to ask "limited and targeted" questions in the discovery process, as long as the questions don't overlap with issues under consideration in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The government wanted to put this case in the deep freeze," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Ophsal. "Instead, the court has invited us to move forward with some targeted questions. We're glad to accept that invitation, which will allow progress while respecting the government's national security concerns."
Judge Walker refused to implement a blanket stay on other telecommunications surveillance cases transferred to his court. He ruled that unless the parties stipulate to a stay,"defendants will answer or otherwise respond to the complaint" by March 29. Earlier this week, the judge denied requests from media groups to unseal critical evidence in the AT&T case. He said he might revisit the issue at a later date.
"We're disappointed that the court did not choose to unseal all of the documents that include or refer to the evidence presented by Mark Klein and our expert, J. Scott Marcus. The government has already agreed that the evidence is neither classified nor a state secret and is only being held under seal because of AT&T's weak trade secrecy claims," said Cindy Cohn, EFF's legal director. "Given that the privacy of millions of Americans is at stake, we strongly believe that the public would benefit from seeing this evidence for themselves."
For background on the AT&T lawsuit, read Update on class action against AT&T, AT&T maintains secret room for NSA, documents allege and Don't Let AT&T off the hook.