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DOJ argues courts 'ill-equipped' to rule on disclosure of national security secrets

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] argued Wednesday in a court filing that the US courts have traditionally been "ill-equipped" to judge harm to national security and that the executive branch should therefore decide whether information surrounding the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] should be disclosed. The DOJ made the claim in a response brief [PDF text] in the US District Court in San Francisco, where a class action lawsuit [EFF materials] alleging that AT&T illegally let the government monitor its clients' telephone and e-mail conversations has been brought by privacy rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website]. Because the case involves military and governmental secrets [JURIST report], US officials want Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker [SF Chronicle profile] to review classified evidence implicating national security issues and not disclose the materials to the plaintiffs. EFF says failing to disclose the evidence would violate due process. The US is also bringing a motion to dismiss the case.

Last week, lawyers for AT&T made an unsuccessful bid [JURIST report] for the return of documents, collected by a former AT&T technician, that supposedly detail cooperation between the company and the NSA wiretapping program. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 23. Reuters has more.

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