The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with the New York Civil Liberties Union, has filed a lawsuit against the United States government over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone spying program. The ACLU believes that such a surveillance program is a violation of the organization’s constitutional rights, specifically the first and fourth amendments.
In perhaps one of the first challenges under a program that that the Obama administration has sustained and expanded, the ACLU lawsuit was filed on the basis that it is a customer of Verizon. The phone company was implicated in a story by The Guardian newspaper earlier this month for participating in a scheme to provide the NSA with customer records.
Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement:
This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens.
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.
For those that may not know, the US Constitution’s first and fourth amendments guarantee the right of free speech and also the protection from unreasonable search and seizures, respectively.
This isn’t the first time the ACLU has tried to get the US government’s surveillance programs overturned. In 2008, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the government over the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act, which enabled law enforcement to execute “warrantless wiretapping programs”. That case was dismissed by the US Supreme Court by a vote of 5-4 with the majority opinion stating that the ACLU couldn’t prove that they had been monitored.
Of course, now with new information concerning the NSA’s activities public, this could give the ACLU another bite at the proverbial apple.
Surely, any outcome from this lawsuit will have repercussions on the way the US government is able to conduct surveillance. It will be interesting to see how it affects its PRISM program and if any verdict in favor of the ACLU will change the way the country protects itself.
Here is the ACLU’s lawsuit filed with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York:
Photo credit: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images
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