The Strategist

NSA: Courting trouble

03/11/2015 - 04:43

Following the Snowden disclosures, the NSA has been dragged to the district court of Maryland by ACLU. Although it had done the same in the past, the case was dismissed for want of evidence that they had been spied on.

Following the damning disclosures by Edward Snowden on the extant of intrusive surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has filed a lawsuit on behalf of all the organizations whose privacy has been grossly compromised. What is becoming increasing lucid is that this lawsuit is not just about privacy issues, it has a broader agenda in mind – it is essentially saying that the first amendment rights, which protect freedom of speech and association, has been grossly violated by the NSA through mass surveillance. It needs to stop.

On Tuesday, the 10th of March, the ACLU along with the Rutherford Institute, filed this lawsuit against the NSA’s mass surveillance and the Department of Justice, which continuous to be a Pandora’s Box for the US Government and its Intelligence Community.  

The US Constitution’s, the First Amendment protects its citizens against unreasonable search and seizure. It protects a citizen’s freedom of speech and association. The way in which the NSA went about snooping on its own citizen’s communication in the form of upstream surveillance aka mass surveillance of the internet’s data traffic, specifically violations this right.

Patrick Tomey, an attorney with ACLU commented on this case

"This kind of dragnet surveillance constitutes a massive invasion of privacy, and it undermines the freedoms of expression and inquiry as well,"

Eight big names have joined hands and have closed ranks to file this lawsuit. They include amongst others, PEN American Centre, the Human Rights Watch, the Global Fund for Women, the National   Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Washington Office on Latin America, the Nation magazine and Amnesty International.

Major technological companies in the US, have also joined hands and united against the NSA’s mass surveillance program.

This lawsuit is a second attempt by the ACLU to challenge this warrantless mass snooping. In 2013, it had dragged the NSA to the US Supreme Court, on this very issue, however, the case then was dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not provide the necessary documentation to prove that they had been spied upon. Now that the lid on the NSA’s mass surveillance program has been blown open thanks to Edward Snowden disclosures, it will be interesting to see how this lawsuit plays out in the US Supreme Court.

Information revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden pointed to the fact that Wikipedia has been explicitly targeted. ACLU is the NGO which funds the day-to-day activities of Wikipedia. It is not very clear as to why Wikipedia was the target of such surveillance, since the purpose of the NSA’s dragnet is to capture information for the acquisition of foreign intelligence.

In a blogpost, Lila Tretikov, Wikimedia Foundation’s executive director wrote:

"By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,"

As per Wikimedia’s the way in which the NSA collects data and most probably continues to collect data, exceeds the power and the authority granted to it by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

It will be very interesting to see how this legal action plays out in the US justice system.