Court OKs immunity for telecoms in wiretap case

Dec 30, 2011 By JASON DEAREN , Associated Press

A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.

Thursday's unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit affirmed a lower regarding the 2008 law.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies' customers.

The noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity's role in helping the government gather intelligence.

"It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies ... and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, `the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,'" Judge M. Margaret McKeown said.

The plaintiffs, represented by lawyers including the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuse the companies of violating the law and the privacy of its customers through collaboration with National Security Agency on intelligence gathering.

The case stemmed from new surveillance rules passed by Congress in 2008 that included protection from legal liability for that allegedly helped the U.S. spy on Americans without warrants.

"I'm very disappointed. I think the court reaches to try to put lipstick on a pig here," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who argued the case before the panel. "I think what Congress did was an abdication of its duty to protect people from illegal surveillance."

Thursday did not bring all bad news for plaintiffs challenging the government's surveillance efforts.

In a separate opinion on Thursday, a three-judge panel of the court revived two other lawsuits that seek redress for telecom customers whose information may have been compromised by the warrantless surveillance program.

Two groups of telecom customers sued the NSA for violating their privacy by collecting Internet data from AT&T and other major in the surveillance program authorized by President George W. Bush.

Government lawyers have moved to stop such cases, arguing that defending the program in court would jeopardize national security and expose state secrets.

The suits will be sent back to U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Emails seeking comment from AT&T and the U.S. Department of Justice weren't immediately returned.

Explore further: Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

5 /5 (6 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US appeals court considers wiretapping lawsuits

Aug 31, 2011

(AP) -- A federal appeals court panel in Seattle will consider Wednesday whether to revive two cases claiming the government has monitored the communications of millions of Americans since 9/11.

Federal judge tosses warrantless wiretap cases

Jun 03, 2009

(AP) -- A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out more than three dozen lawsuits filed against the nation's telecommunications companies for allegedly taking part in the government's e-mail and telephone eavesdropping program ...

Court won't stop hormone replacement lawsuits

Oct 12, 2010

(AP) -- The Supreme Court won't reconsider a decision to reinstate more than 100 lawsuits filed by women who claimed that hormone replacement therapy caused breast cancer.

AT&T claims ownership of customer data

Jun 22, 2006

AT&T has been charged with violating the privacy of its customers by handing over data to the National Security Agency, a charge that it has hitherto denied.

AT&T's NSA legal woes continue to grow

May 23, 2006

AT&T has flatly denied the allegations, but the telecommunications giant continues to be mired by reports that it and other major carriers have gone out of their way to cooperate with the U.S. government to ...

Recommended for you

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

Apr 17, 2014

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Quantenna promises 10-gigabit Wi-Fi by next year

Apr 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Quantenna Communications has announced that it has plans for releasing a chipset that will be capable of delivering 10Gbps WiFi to/from routers, bridges and computers by sometime next year. ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

Apr 16, 2014

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

Apr 16, 2014

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.

Dish Network denies wrongdoing in $2M settlement

Apr 15, 2014

The state attorney general's office says Dish Network Corp. will reimburse Washington state customers about $2 million for what it calls a deceptive surcharge, but the satellite TV provider denies any wrongdoing.

Netflix's Comcast deal improves quality of video

Apr 14, 2014

Netflix's videos are streaming through Comcast's Internet service at their highest speeds in the past 17 months now that Netflix is paying for a more direct connection to Comcast's network.

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shifty0x88
4 / 5 (4) Dec 30, 2011
I agree that cellphone companies should not be legally liable for authorized wire tapping on private citizens but if they are doing it just because they are asked to, without a warrant I DO HAVE A PROBLEM WITH THAT! and they should be HELD LEGALLY LIABLE!
NeutronicallyRepulsive
4 / 5 (4) Dec 30, 2011
Flipping egg, what are you building over there in the US? 1984 Oceania?
Blaspheyou
3 / 5 (2) Dec 30, 2011
What Shifty said.
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.5 / 5 (6) Dec 30, 2011
it all started with marbury versus madison: courts approve of their own power to approve of other institutions thereby strengthening not only their own institutional imperitave but the imperative of any other institutions that they side with.

Argiod
1.8 / 5 (5) Dec 30, 2011
Privacy? What privacy? Any hacker worth his bits can now access our government's files... what makes us think there's anything resembling privacy in today's world?

"You'd better watch out, you'd better not shout; Uncle Sam's coming to town...."
_nigmatic10
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 30, 2011
Privacy begins and ends with the power button. Learn it well.
hagger
3 / 5 (1) Dec 31, 2011
bought off...and since when did any government do any thing lawfull..esp the US government..corrupt to the core all governments..i have no respect for them what so ever...self serving megalomaniacs...

More news stories

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.