Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Breaking: ACLU and New York Civil Liberties Union file lawsuit against NSA phone spying
by Larry Geller
The NSA phone spying, revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post in their coverage of the Edward Snowden leaks, has snared the records of the ACLU, a Verizon customer. They have filed a lawsuit challenging the NSA spying
In the past, lawsuits similar to this have failed because plaintiffs could not prove that their communications had been monitored. The publication of a top-secret FISA Court order could change that.
The lawsuit, according to an ACLU press release, argues that the NSA program violates their First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment.
"This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. "It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy."
The lawsuit argues that the government's blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU's phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization's ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.
"The crux of the government's justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone's data now and ask questions later," said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU's National Security Project. "The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country."
Snowden’s leak can provide the missing link in this and similar cases: it resolves the issue of “standing.” Again, according to the ACLU:
The ACLU's 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called "warrantless wiretapping program," was dismissed 5-4 by the Supreme Court in February on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today's complaint said they do not expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the FISA Court order revealed last week.
The ACLU said that yesterday, it and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215.
A copy of ACLU v. Clapper is posted below.