[JURIST] Lawyers from the US Department of Justice on Monday appealed [petition, PDF] a federal court decision [JURIST report] that allowed a challenge to the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] to go forward, arguing to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] that the lawsuit could expose state secrets and jeopardize national security. US District Judge Vaughn Walker [official profile] of the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [order, PDF] on July 20 that the broad media coverage of the surveillance program had neutralized any danger of disclosing state secrets, and allowed the lawsuit to move forward.
In April, the Justice Department filed a Statement of Interest [PDF] in the class action lawsuit [EFF case backgrounder; JURIST report] brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation [advocacy website] against telecommunications giant AT&T alleging that AT&T violated citizens' rights to privacy and several federal statutes when it allowed the NSA to use its infrastructure to wiretap US citizens as part of the Bush administration's surveillance program. Walker's ruling was the first in several federal lawsuits to go against the government's attempts to invoke the state secrets privilege for the surveillance program. Government attorneys for the twenty lawsuits have asked the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation [official website] to consolidate all the cases [JURIST report] so it could invoke the state secrets privilege and seek to have the cases dismissed, while the plaintiffs asked to have Walker in San Francisco handle the cases. AP has more.