Supreme Court won't review telecom immunity for surveillance

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider a challenge to a 2008 federal law granting immunity to AT&T Inc and other telecommunications companies for helping the government eavesdrop on customers' private phone conversations.

Section 802 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, barred a variety of civil actions against anyone providing assistance to the intelligence community.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the law in December 2011.

The Obama Administration had argued that lawsuits against phone companies should be dismissed, to encourage cooperation in efforts to fight terrorism and help ensure that state secrets be kept under wraps.

Without comment, the high court refused to review a challenge to the law that gave the companies immunity for cooperating with the government's intelligence-gathering activities.

The case is Hepting et al v. AT&T Corp et al, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 11-1200.

(Reporting by Terry Baynes and Jonathan Stempel; editing by Claudia Parsons)