San Francisco federal judge rules
for need to look at secret goverment documents
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
June 7, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A federal judge in San Francisco
has ruled that that he needs to look at classified government
documents before he can proceed with presiding over a surveillance
lawsuit filed against AT&T Corp.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, in an order issued on Tuesday,
instructed Justice Department lawyers to make the confidential
documents available to him by Friday.
The documents explain why the government claims that a lawsuit
filed against AT&T must be dismissed because proceeding with
the case would allegedly endanger national security.
The lawsuit, filed by the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier
Foundation on behalf of four Californians, alleges that AT&T
has given the National Security Agency records of millions of
Americans' telephone and Internet communications.
The classified documents include key parts of a government brief
seeking dismissal along with parts of sworn statements by National
Intelligence Director John Negroponte and NSA Director Keith Alexander.
In an unsealed part of his statement, Negroponte said there would
be "exceptionally grave danger to the national security of
the United States" if the lawsuit is allowed to proceed and
government secrets are revealed.
Walker will hear the government's request for dismissal of the
case on June 23.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs had urged him to decide on that motion
without looking at the secret documents.
But Walker said in his order that "the only prudent way"
for him to balance the due process rights of the plaintiffs and
the government's national security claim is to review the documents.
At a hearing last month, a government lawyer told the judge that
the documents are being held at a secure site at the Justice Department
in Washington D.C. and can be flown to San Francisco for him to
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