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Judge Denies Request To Throw Out AT&T Spy Suit

A judge denied requests by the federal government and AT&T Corps. to dismiss a lawsuit claiming AT&T broke the law by assisting the National Security Agency's efforts in eavesdropping on millions of Americans' communications.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Thursday in San Francisco that the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action lawsuit against AT&T will continue. EFF lawyers said the ruling is the most significant to come out from about 35 similar cases pending across the country.

In many of those cases, the government is arguing, or expected to argue, that the lawsuits could expose state secrets and jeopardize national security. Some judges are considering motions to dismiss the cases against phone companies and the federal government on "national security" grounds. No other judge has ruled on that argument yet.

Walker proposed appointing an expert who can help determine whether revealing specific information in the case presents a substantial danger. He did not decide whether AT&T Inc., the holding company, should remain as a defendant in the suit.

EFF filed a lawsuit in February, claiming that AT&T gave the NSA direct access to massive amounts of customer data. The lawsuit includes testimony from former AT&T employees who describe building a secret and secure room where wires were split to send replicas of all data to federal investigators.

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