Privacy

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
4th amendment, aclu, lawsuits, nsa, nsa surveillance

Companies:
verizon



ACLU Sues The Government On Its Own Behalf, As A Verizon Customer, Arguing 4th Amendment Violations

from the to-which-the-feds-will-scream-national-security-and-shut-up dept

There have already been a few lawsuits filed about the various NSA surveillance revelations of the last week, but one to watch closely is the lawsuit filed yesterday by the ACLU on its own behalf. The ACLU frequently represents others, but in this case, it notes that it's a Verizon customer, so the mass sucking up of all phone call records on Verizon directly impacts the ACLU.
"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 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.
As we had just pointed out, the ACLU lost its case before the Supreme Court on this very subject (the Constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act) just a few months ago, because the Supreme Court argued that the plaintiffs in that case (Amnesty International) only had speculation that its lawyers had their records monitored. But here, the ACLU rightly points out, it now has the evidence that the ACLU's calls were sucked up in this dragnet.

In other words, this time, there should be no issue of "standing" to deal with.

Of course, the feds will respond the way they normally do in such cases: claiming national security and sovereign immunity. That's what let the feds off the hook on the only other case where evidence of actual monitoring had been leaked, and where the "standing" issue wasn't in dispute. In that case, an appeals court ruled, basically, that the government never actually has to have the Constitutionality of such laws determined in court, because it can claim sovereign immunity to kill off any such lawsuits. If that seems like a crazy result, you'd be correct. That ruling was in the 9th Circuit. This new case is being filed in the Southern District of NY, which is in the Second Circuit. Hopefully, the court rules the other way, setting up a Supreme Court case to resolve the circuit split. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court isn't known for being particularly great at protecting civil liberties lately, so even that may be risky. But, at least there's a chance.

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    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jun 2013 @ 7:16am

    Milk it milk milk it milk it. Nobody milks more than Mile!

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