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US: S.F. Reviewing Pact with AT&T

City weighs options on telecom's alleged ties to NSA spying

by Scott LindlawThe Associated Press
July 12th, 2006

San Francisco officials are examining the city's telecommunications contracts with AT&T and whether to take action against the company over allegations it has cooperated illegally with the National Security Agency, Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

``If what I'm reading is true, I've got some serious problems as a San Franciscan, as a taxpayer and as mayor,'' Newsom told the Associated Press. ``And I don't like it.''

A federal lawsuit filed by Internet privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation accuses the telecommunications giant of illegally cooperating with the NSA to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants. According to the lawsuit, AT&T allowed the NSA to install data-mining equipment in secret rooms at AT&T offices in San Francisco and a handful of other cities.

Last month, the government urged a federal judge to dismiss the suit, saying it threatens to reveal national security secrets. The judge's decision is pending.

Newsom said he has asked City Attorney Dennis Herrera to conduct ``fact finding'' on the matter. But the mayor also said he has completed his own compilation of ``all of our current business relationships the city has with AT&T.''

That review, which includes expiration dates and other obligations, ``may be suggestive that if we conclude that this is sincerely problematic, there may be a desire to not just make a symbolic statement of opposition, but to make a substantive one.''

The mayor said he did not know the value of AT&T's contracts with San Francisco. Nor would he provide a timetable for completion of the city attorney's probe.

``I recognize the ability . . . to perhaps have a little more influence because we do have a strong relationship with AT&T and I'd like to continue that,'' he said.

``But I also think it's a two-way street,'' Newsom said. ``If you're going to do business with us, and San Francisco always has, we say: Please help represent the values of the people that are actually purchasing those goods and services, meaning the taxpayers of this city.''

The city attorney has not spoken directly to the NSA about its program, he said. A spokesman for the city attorney said his office does not comment on the existence or progress of investigations.

A spokesman for San Antonio-based AT&T, Michael Coe, declined to comment on the city review or the mayor's remarks.

``Over the span of several decades, AT&T and the city of San Francisco have enjoyed strong partnership,'' Coe said in an e-mail message. ``We value this relationship and we look forward to serving the telecommunications needs of the city and its residents in the future.''






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