The organisation alleges that a secret National Security Agency was set up in San Francisco with AT&T’s help and was used to process the data from millions of telephone conversations and internet sessions.
The suit has been filed against the National Security Agency (NSA) but also names President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney's chief of staff David Addington, former Attorney General and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and other individuals who ordered or participated in the warrantless domestic surveillance.
"Demanding personal accountability from President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others responsible for the NSA's dragnet surveillance of ordinary Americans' communications is the best way to guarantee that such blatantly illegal spying will not be authorized in the future," said EFF legal director Cindy Cohn.
"Our lawsuit today should sound a clear warning to future occupants of the White House: if you break the law and violate Americans' privacy, there will be consequences."
Under the terms of the FISA bill passed in February telecommunications companies are exempt from any litigation following their decision to comply with from the intelligence services that they hand over customer data.
Although the bill is now law it is being challenged in the courts as unconstitutional and the new legal suit will also have to be fought out in the courts.
"In addition to suing AT&T, we've now opened a second front in the battle to stop the NSA's illegal surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and hold personally responsible those who authorized or participated in the spying program," said EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston.
"For years, the NSA has been engaged in a massive and massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T's domestic networks and databases of customer records. Our goal in this new case against the government, as in our case against AT&T, is to dismantle this dragnet surveillance program as soon as possible."
EFF sues Bush, Cheney et al for AT&T spying
By Iain Thomson on Sep 19, 2008 4:05PM