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Judge keeps spying documents sealed

The jurist rules that it's premature to release materials sought by the media in lawsuits challenging Bush's domestic surveillance.

February 21, 2007|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A judge overseeing dozens of federal lawsuits challenging the Bush administration's domestic spying program ruled Tuesday that he will keep under seal court documents that the media were trying to make public.

The suits accuse telecommunications companies of illegally cooperating with the National Security Agency to make e-mail and telephone communications available to the spy agency without warrants.

The Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Bloomberg News, USA Today, Lycos Inc. and Wired News had asked U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to unseal a declaration by a former AT&T Corp. technician and other documents in the case.

Wired.com had published some of the technician's documents, showing that the National Security Agency is capable of monitoring communications on AT&T's network after the NSA installed equipment in secret rooms at AT&T offices in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

AT&T said the documents involved trade secrets and should remain sealed.

In March, Walker denied a similar motion by the media and did so again Tuesday, ruling both times that it was premature to disclose that information.

President Bush announced in December 2005 that the NSA has been conducting warrantless surveillance of calls and e-mails thought to involve Al Qaeda terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In January, Bush moved the program under the auspices of a secret tribunal known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but few details were released.

All the cases are largely on hold as the government appeals Walker's decision denying the Bush administration's request to dismiss the case against AT&T.

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