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Federal judge lets discovery proceed in domestic spying class action lawsuit

[JURIST] US District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker issued an order [PDF] Tuesday imposing a limited stay on discovery in a class action lawsuit [EFF case backgrounder; JURIST report] challenging the legality of the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], despite the government's request [PDF text] to stay discovery pending the outcome of an appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The order permits the plaintiffs to "propound a limited and targeted set of interrogatories," and if such motion describes "why the discovery will not moot the issues on interlocutory appeal to the Ninth Circuit," Walker will "entertain plaintiffs’ motion to lift the stay for the purpose of requiring a response." AFP has more.

Also on Tuesday, Judge Walker denied a media request to unseal documents [PDF order; EFF press release] filed in the case, including internal AT&T documents and a declaration from a retired AT&T telecommunications technician.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] brought the class action wiretapping lawsuit against AT&T [corporate website] in January, alleging that the company had unlawfully provided the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] with access to its facilities and resources to unconstitutionally spy on "millions of ordinary Americans." The US Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to dismiss the case in July, citing "state secrets" among other concerns. Walker, however, denied the motion [JURIST report] and ruled [order, PDF] instead that the case can proceed safely because broad media coverage of the surveillance program had neutralized any danger of disclosing state secrets. In early November, the Ninth Circuit agreed to hear an appeal [JURIST report] of the decision.

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