AT&T Sued for Invasion of Privacy

FIVE AUSTIN PLAINTIFFS FILE FEDERAL CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST AT&T FOR DISCLOSING TELEPHONE NUMBERS TO NATIONAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

Five Austin plaintiffs today [May 18] filed a federal class action suit in U.S. District Court in Austin against AT&T because it has, and is currently providing the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States Government with phone call records of millions of Americans, including Plaintiffs, in violation of federal and Texas state laws, including the federal Stored Wire and Electronic Communication and Transactional Records Access Act, the federal Telecommunications Act, the Texas Penal Code, the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and Texas common law.

Pursuant to its agreement with NSA, AT&T provided, and continues to provide, the NSA with a complete listing of customers calling history, including the phone numbers of customers, the phone numbers customers dial, the location from which each call originates, the length of each call, and the location where each call terminates. In exchange for this information, AT&T received, and continues to receive, direct and/or indirect financial compensation from NSA.

The Plaintiffs filed suit on behalf of a class of attorneys, a class of journalists, and a class of financial advisors.

The five plaintiffs are:

1. James C. Harrington, attorney and Director of the Texas Civil Rights, frequently sues the federal government and criticizes its conduct with regard to civil liberties. He and the Texas Civil Rights Project have had an account for telecommunications services with AT&T (or predecessor companies) during the last three years, and continue to have this account. Harringtons mobile phone service is through AT&T. As an attorney, Harrington uses his mobile phone and other AT&T telecommunications equipment and services to communicate with clients and co-counsel.

2. Richard A. Grigg, an Austin attorney licensed in the State of Texas, who represents an individual detained in Guantanamo and though he may not communicate with his client over the phone, he uses his AT&T telecommunications equipment and services to communicate with other habeas attorneys concerning his client and his clients case. As an attorney, Grigg uses his mobile phone and other AT&T telecommunications equipment and services to communicate with clients and co-counsel.

3. Louis Black, a freelance reporter and editor of the Austin Chronicle. He has had an account for telecommunications services with AT&T (or predecessor companies) during the last three years, and continues to have this account. He uses his AT&T telecommunications equipment and services to communicate with news sources and informants, some of whom wish to remain confidential.

4. The Austin Chronicle is a publication whose primary place of business and distributorship is Austin. The Austin Chronicle has had an account for telecommunications services with AT&T (or predecessor companies) during the last three years, and continues to have this account. The Austin Chronicle contributors and staff use the AT&T equipment and services to communicate with news sources and informants, some of whom wish to remain confidential.

5. Michael Kentor is a financial advisor and founder of the Kentor Company, a financial firm. He has had an account for telecommunications services with AT&T (or predecessor companies) during the last three years, and continues to have this account. He uses his AT&T telecommunications equipment and services to communicate with clients, family, friends, and colleagues.

Through their federal case, Plaintiffs seek preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, restraining AT&T from disclosing Plaintiffs call records and those of the classes to the NSA. They also seek statutory damages to each Plaintiff as provided in federal and state statutes, in an amount no less than the sum of $1000 per each act of disclosure of call record information, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2707(c); and $100 per day per violation, pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 18.20, § 16(a). They also seek punitive damages against AT&T.

Plaintiffs are represented by prominent constitutional attorney, R. James George, Jr. of George & Brothers, L.L.P., in Austin.

Media Advisory posted at Texas Civil Rights Project, May 18, 2006

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