Friday, August 24, 2007

AT&T, the NSA, and spying on your phone calls

Its Alice in Wonderland at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal in California, and Wired's blog has the story here. (some previous Blog Brief items can be seen here and here)

Some highlights from the proceedings:
  • In response to the claim that courts should simply accept that state secrets are involved when the state claims they are, Judge Pregerson asked, "What does utmost deference mean? Bow to it?"
  • Even whether a warrant was obtained for the surveillance is a state secret.
  • Whether surveillance occurred that documents accidentally produced by the government confirm occurred is also a state secret.
  • AT&T's lawyer: "The government has said that whatever AT&T is doing with the government is a state secret," Kellogg says. He adds, "As a consequence, no evidence can come in whether the individuals' communications were ever accepted or whether we played any role in it."
  • Also, even though there is clear evidence that AT&T has a suspicious room with suspicious equipment capable of routing data to the government illegally, "Something else could be going on in that room. Just to pick one, it could be FISA court surveillance in that room." Get that? The government can suggest the possibility that it is not breaking the law as evidence that it is not breaking the law, without telling the court that it is actually conducting LEGAL surveillance under FISA.
  • "[T]he secret document that the government accidentally gave the foundation is so secret that it is outside of the case," and the lawyers for the plaintiffs (who actually saw the document and know what it says) cannot testify about what it says because "the only way to test the veracity of their recollections is to compare it to the document."
  • How secret is the document? "This document is totally non-redactable and non-segregable and cannot even be meaningfully described."
  • Judge McKeown: "I feel like I'm in Alice and Wonderland."
  • Bondy, one of the gov't lawyers, on the plaintiffs and their attorneys: "It's entirely possible that everything they think they know is entirely false."

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