High court nixes appeal of AT&T, NSA wiretap Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to overturn a lower-court decision upholding legal immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in a National Security Agency surveillance program during the last decade.

The court, without comment, declined to review a December 2011 appeals court decision upholding legal immunity for AT&T in its effort to help the NSA monitor phone calls and Internet communications following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed the class-action lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T, in 2006. Congress in 2008 gave telecom carriers legal immunity for participating in the NSA program, and the EFF appealed a June 2009 dismissal of the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the appeals court let the immunity stand.

The EFF and other civil liberties groups accused AT&T of participating in an illegal surveillance program run by the NSA. Officials of President George W. Bush's administration said the program was necessary to fight terrorism.

Meanwhile, the EFF is pursuing a related case, Jewel v. NSA, according to EFF legal director Cindy Cohn. "This program hasn't been seriously considered in the courts," she said. "We look forward to rectifying that."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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Tags National Security Agencyat&tsecuritycyberwarfareprivacyU.S. Supreme CourtElectronic Frontier Foundation

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