U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly today granted a motion by the United States Department of Justice to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Chicago author Studs Terkel and other prominent Chicagoans challenging the actions of telephone giant AT&T in divulging the telephone records of its customers to the federal government without lawful authorization. The court agreed with the government's argument that the need to protect "state secrets" necessitated dismissing the lawsuit.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Illinois Legal Director Harvey Grossman:
We respectfully disagree with the court. A private company - AT&T - should not be able to escape accountability for violating a federal statute and the privacy of its customers on the basis that a program widely discussed in public is secret. Members of Congress publicly discussed the program of gathering data from telephone companies without lawful authorization in violation of existing federal law.
We believe that innocent Americans - including our clients in this case - should have a venue through the courts for vindicating their rights against the abuses and overreach of the executive branch.
We are consulting with our clients and will consider our options for future actions.