In a move that can’t be too shocking to most, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, has filed a lawsuit challenging the recently-revealed NSA phone records program.
The initiative, unearthed by The Guardian, involves the National Security Agency obtaining customer metadata (phone call duration, location, and more) from Verizon.
Interestingly enough, the ACLU has filed the lawsuit on the basis that they are Verizon customers.
The ACLU charges that the NSA’s actions violate both their First Amendment rights of free speech and association, as well as their Fourth Amendment rights that protect against illegal search and seizure.
They also say the the program goes way beyond what it permissible through the Patriot Act.
“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 ACLU lawsuit named five defendants: James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence; Lt. Gen. Keith B. Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency; Charles T. Hagel, Secretary of Defense; Eric H. Holder, U.S. Attorney General; and Robert S. Mueller, Director of the FBI.
This isn’t the first time the the ACLU has waded into these waters. Back in 2008, the group filed another lawsuit against the so-called “warrantless wiretapping program” authorized by the FISA Amendments Act. That case made it all the way to the Supreme Court before eventually turning in favor of the federal government (5-4 decision).
“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.”
You can read the entire lawsuit here.[Photo via Ryan Welsh, Flickr]