Civil rights NGO ACLU sues US officials over NSA surveillance program
MOSCOW, June 13 (RAPSI) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a claim against various high-ranking US government officials Tuesday in response to last week’s revelation that the US government had engaged in large-scale surveillance of the communication records of its citizens.
Among the documents leaked by former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) technical assistant and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to The Guardian was a court order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) granting the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) application for an order compelling Verizon to produce “on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order, unless otherwise ordered by the Court, an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
In challenging the government’s acquisition of their own telephone records, the plaintiffs describes the surveillance program in the following terms: “In response to information published by the media, the government has acknowledged that it is relying on Section 215 to collect “metadata” about every phone call made or received by residents of the United States. The practice is akin to snatching every American’s address book—with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where. It gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious, and intimate associations.”
The ACLU asserts that as a present Verizon subscriber, its communications have been monitored by the US government under the aforementioned order, and that those communications remain under surveillance even now. The ACLU is an advocacy group whose work centers on the constitutional principles of liberty and equality. Among its co-plaintiffs is the ACLU Foundation (ACLUF) – an advocacy group focused on public education about civil liberties and pro-bono legal representation in civil liberties cases. The ACLUF is a Verizon subscriber as well.
Listed among the defendants are National Intelligence Director James Clapper, NSA Director Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, Defense Secretary Charles Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder, and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
According to the claim: “The government’s surveillance of their communications… allows the government to learn sensitive and privileged information about their work and clients, and it is likely to have a chilling effect on whistleblowers and others who would otherwise contact Plaintiffs for legal assistance.” The claim further asserts that the surveillance at issue is not authorized under the relevant federal law, and is in violation of the US Constitution.
The claim seeks various forms of relief, including a declaration of the illegality of the government’s surveillance of these communications under US federal law as well as the fourth and fifth amendments of the US Constitution, an injunction against its continuation under the present order or any successor, and the requirement for the court to purge all of the plaintiff’s communications collected as a result of the program.