Nearly two dozen political and religious groups from across the ideological spectrum, including the CalGuns Foundation and Greenpeace, sued the National Security Agency in federal district court on Tuesday. The civil lawsuit challenges the spy agency's authority to harvest and store phone records.
The suit was filed in San Francisco federal district court and was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights advocacy group and law firm. It asserts that the NSA's "dragnet surveillance" -- which extends to millions of Americans -- is illegal and unconstitutional.
Other organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, have also recently filed suit against the NSA in response to leaked information on its surveillance programs. This most recent case is notable in that it represents a broad coalition of groups that often don't have much use for each other.
San Francisco - Nineteen organizations including Unitarian church groups, gun ownership advocates, and a broad coalition of membership and political advocacy organizations filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) today for violating their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records. The coalition is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group with years of experience fighting illegal government surveillance in the courts.Time to Rein in the Surveillance State
"The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years."
In addition to the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the full list of plaintiffs in this case includes the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Calguns Foundation, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, People for the American Way, and TechFreedom.
The government is using provisions of the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act to regularly track all of the calls of millions of ordinary Americans and to spy on an unknown number of Americans' international calls and emails. A Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order published by The Guardian indicates that a Verizon subsidiary is handing over the phone records of all of its customers to the National Security Agency on an ongoing basis. And a newly revealed NSA program—called PRISM—can access data from nine major internet companies, giving the government ready access to our emails, chats, Skype calls, and more.
This unprecedented surveillance strikes at the core of our right to free speech, association, and privacy. On June 10, 2013, the ACLU filed a motion with the FISA Court seeking the release of its secret opinions that enable the mass acquisition of phone records. The next day, we filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the phone tracking program. Read on to learn more about the program and what we're doing to stop it.