California Lawyer on EFF versus AT&T

Jim sez, "The cover story of this month's California Lawyer Magazine is a pretty nice story on the Electronic Frontier Foundation, its history and the current fight against AT&T for its role in the NSA's domestic spying program:"

One sunny day in San Francisco two winters ago, a retired telecommunications technician with an understandable distrust of telephones stepped off a BART train after a short but fateful ride. His name was Mark Klein, and his destination was a red brick office building in an untouristed part of the city dominated by low-rise warehouses. There he met with a small group of maverick, tech-savvy lawyers called the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

For Klein, then 60, this trip was a long time coming. As a veteran telecommunications technician and computer network associate at AT&T, he had in recent years obtained several company documents that described in specific, technical terms a secret room he says the National Security Agency (NSA) had set up on the sixth floor of an AT&T building downtown. Klein entered the room itself only once, and that was just for a couple of minutes. (Generally, people needed a security clearance to gain access.) However, just one floor above, he managed the Internet-traffic room to which it was electronically connected.

Through that work, the documents he gathered, and conversations he had with other employees, Klein came to understand that his employer was colluding with the federal government to siphon a copy of billions of domestic Internet communications into that secret room, every second of every day. And all without a warrant. "Even Nixon didn't go that far," Klein thought.
As he later told MSNBC, the situation made him think of George Orwell's classic 1984. "Here I was, being forced to connect the Big Brother machine." However, after complaining to a supervisor, with no result, he did not pursue the matter. He retired in 2004.

Then, in December 2005, the New York Times outed the Bush administration's warrantless domestic-surveillance program, which the administration subsequently defended as an effort to monitor no more than a handful of phone calls to the Middle East. This convinced Klein that the time was finally right to share his inside information.

His timing was better than he imagined: When he knocked on EFF's door that day in January 2006, the lawyers inside were already working feverishly to craft a class action against the nation's largest telecommunications company.