Jameel Jaffer, ACLU:
NSA PRISM Violates First and Fourth Amendment Rights
June 12, 2013
American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union
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.
"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.
"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."
The ACLU's 2008 lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA
Amendments Act, which authorized the so-called "warrantless wiretapping
program," was dismissed 5–4 by the Supreme Court in February on the
grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been
monitored. ACLU attorneys working on today's complaint said they do not
expect the issue of standing to be a problem in this case because of the
FISA Court order revealed last week.
the ACLU and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access
Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish
its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act
Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of
Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the
Justice Department release information about the government's use and
interpretation of Section 215.
"There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops,"
said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "If we don't say this is
too far, when is too far?"
Attorneys on the case are Jaffer and Abdo along with Brett Max Kaufman
and Patrick Toomey of the ACLU, and Arthur N. Eisenberg and Christopher
T. Dunn of the NYCLU.