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US government sues to stop New Jersey AG probe of phone records turnover

[JURIST] The US government has filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] against New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber [official profile] and other New Jersey officials, seeking to stop them seeking information from telecommunications companies on whether they cooperated with the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] in its domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] by giving customer call records to the government. Farber and other state officials had subpoenaed five telephone carriers, including giants AT&T, Verizon Communications and BellSouth [corporate websites], asking for documents confirming their cooperation with the NSA. The New Jersey subpoenas came shortly after USA Today reported [text; JURIST report] in May that phone companies allegedly cooperated with the NSA program. Farber sought the company information because she feared that state consumer protection laws requiring that phone companies notify customers before turning over customer data were violated.

In May the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed nationally coordinated complaints [JURIST report] against the three major phone companies and the attorneys general of 20 states, requesting investigations into the legality of information allegedly provided to the NSA by the phone companies. The US Department of Justice [official website] has since announced plans to move to dismiss all 20 lawsuits [JURIST report] after they have been consolidated into one lawsuit. Several other class action lawsuits have also been filed against the phone companies, unrelated to the ACLU campaign. Advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy website] filed a class action against AT&T in California, and the Department of Justice has argued [JURIST report] that the case should be dismissed on the same grounds - that the lawsuit may reveal military and state secrets. Both Verizon and BellSouth have denied all allegations [JURIST report] that they illegally provided customer information to the NSA, while AT&T has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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