The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), representing AT&T customers, filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies responsible for "massively illegal" warrantless surveillance of internet and telephone communications over the past several years.
Along with the NSA, the EFF is accusing President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and several others in the lawsuit. The EFF hopes by naming the president, vice president and other high-ranking government officials will help ensure similar action does not take place in the future.
"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," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said in a statement.
"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."
The NSA reportedly created a wiretapping center in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Atlanta, and Bridgeton, where the government agency monitored data from millions of phone conversations and internet chat logs by AT&T users, with the phone company's help.
The program was first unveiled by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, who first leaked information about the program two years ago.
There are more than 35 active lawsuits against the U.S. federal government due to its warrantless wire tapping.
In February, the FISA bill passed, which ensured telecommunication conglomerates cannot be held liable from litigation if they provided assistance to the NSA or other government agencies. But the EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are trying to prove the law is unconstitutional, and want to have it changed so the major telecommunication companies can be held responsible.