AT&T Sued for Opening Network to NSA

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a class action lawsuit against AT&T for allegedly violating laws and the privacy of its users by collaborating with the National Security Agency. News that the NSA was working with major telecommunications companies first surfaced shortly before Christmas.

According to the New York Times report, by working with backbone networks in the United States, the NSA was able to tap directly into switches and monitor any traffic moving across the networks. This included e-mail, instant messages and even phone calls, as most traditional phone communication is routed using voice over IP these days.

Calling it the "largest fishing expedition ever devised," the EFF claims that the NSA mined the contents of Internet and phone communications for "suspicious names, numbers, and words."

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The NSA would then "identify persons who may be linked to suspicious activities, suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly," the EFF said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Times followed the NYT report on December 26 by reporting that AT&T had given the NSA a "direct hookup" into a database that records information about all domestic phone calls.

The Bush administration has acknowledged the existence of a domestic spying program, but claims the executive order was limited to those individuals with known terrorist ties. Sources have said the spying was much broader than publicly admitted.

According to the EFF's complaint, "AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte 'Daytona' database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world." The group also alleges that AT&T opened its network to "wholesale surveillance by the NSA" and has broken privacy laws.

"EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public," the organization said.

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