The NRA is not the first organization that comes to mind when I think of civil liberty organizations. Sure, they fight for Second Amendment rights, but they don’t really get involved with matters concerning the First or Fourth Amendment unless it directly affects gun owners. Well, they now feel that the NSA has crossed a line in that respect.
The Hill reports that the NRA has joined the ACLU’s lawsuit against the federal government concerning the NSA’s phone metadata collection program. If you recall, the metadata collection program was the first revealed by the Snowden leaks, and showed that the government was collecting phone data from every call made on Verizon’s network.
So, why does the NRA have a stake in this? Are they suddenly concerned about the privacy of every American? Well, not really – they’re concerned about the privacy of gun owners as they feel the NSA collecting phone metadata is the same thing as building a national gun registry.
In its filing, the NRA says that Congress, in authorizing metadata collection, has authorized the creation of a gun registry program:
“It would be absurd to think that the Congress would adopt and maintain a web of statutes intended to protect against the creation of a national gun registry, while simultaneously authorizing the FBI and the NSA to gather records that could effectively create just such a registry.”
So, how would the NSA compile a gun registry with the metadata it collects under section 215 of the Patriot Act? Well, metadata tells the agency who a person calls and for how long. The NRA feels that the agency could use this information and point out who owns a gun based upon calls being made to gun shops and firing ranges.
While I think it’s a little absurd to think the NSA wants to create a gun registry, I do agree with the spirit of the NRA’s concern. President Obama and other defenders of the NSA say that metadata doesn’t divulge any personal information and is therefore not a violation of the Fourth Amendment. As the NRA points out, that’s not entirely the case as the NSA could use that metadata to find out which Americans make calls to gun shops. That same technique could be used to find out which Americans make calls to any number of groups and organizations. From there, you spiral into the not-so-silly conspiracy theories of the government looking for signs of dissent based upon calls being made to protest organizations and anti-government groups.
With the NRA’s backing, the UCLA has a lot more power behind its attempt to stall the government’s collection of phone records. Now we can only hope the judge in the matter understands the NRA’s example to be just that – an example of how telling metadata really is.
[h/t: Bjoertvedt/Wikimedia Commons]