Tapping Into Wiretap Case

The Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have already complained about secret wiretapping by the National Security Agency with a lawsuit against the government in January. So it’s only fitting that they’d make a push to get involved in the latest litigation over the program — the highly publicized suit in San Francisco federal court accusing AT&T of letting the government spy on all of its customers’ Web and phone conversations.

In an amicus brief filed Monday, the two groups argued that U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker should unseal heretofore secret evidence filed by plaintiff lawyers with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lerach Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins. Specifically, they want to see the paperwork provided to plaintiffs by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T engineer who says he saw — and kept documentation of — a secret room in AT&T’s San Francisco offices that was used for eavesdropping.

AT&T says the documents contain trade secrets and have demanded them back. Plaintiff lawyers disagree. But the author of the ACLU and CCR brief — San Francisco immigration lawyer Marc Van Der Hout, who is also affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild — said that even if they are trade secrets, the decision of whether to keep the papers sealed must be made using a different standard than that used for discovery documents.

“The Klein Documents were acquired by EFF independently, from a third party who is not a party to this lawsuit,” Van Der Hout wrote. “Because they were not acquired through the discovery process, this Court’s broad powers to seal documents in the course of supervising the discovery process do not apply.”

— Justin Scheck

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