The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA Phone Spying Program.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.
The legality of the NSA program to track the phone calls of all Americans is dubious and has yet to face a formal challenge due to the inability to prove standing (because the program was secret). With the release of the Guardian story the ACLU and others feel they have a good chance of prevailing in court.
The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which was the recipient of a secret FISA Court order published by The Guardian last week. The order required the company to “turn over on ‘an ongoing daily basis’ phone call details” such as who calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. 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.”
Finally, at long last, the government’s indecency may be subject to some sunlight as the State will have to explain its perverse and opportunistic interpretations of the PATRIOT Act. Better late than never.