Headed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a large group of different businesses and organisations, including those representing drug reform, gun lobby groups, religious councils, privacy advocates and environmental groups, have filed a lawsuit against the American National Security Agency, Department of Justice, attorney general Eric Holder, his assistant, the FBI and its director Robert Mueller, for what they describe as an unconstitutional “electronic dragnet.”
Some of those behind this latest legal action include: First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, Council on American Islamic-Relations California (and Ohio), Free Press, Free Software Foundation, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch, Media Alliance, Open Technology institute and many, many more.
And of course, the thing they’re all mad about is PRISM and the phone surveillance system undertaken by companies like Verizon on behalf of the above authorities and individuals and it’s not the first. According to Wired, this is actually the fourth coalition of companies and individuals that are suing the NSA and others, in reaction to the details revealed by Edward Snowden and the Guardian in his initial report.
“This lawsuit challenges an illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance, specifically the bulk acquisition, collection, storage, retention, and searching of telephone communications information,” the suit reads.
It also cites several amendments, suggesting that with this “dragnet,” the NSA and others have infringed upon the rights of the aggravated parties. According to the suit, the first, fourth and fifth amendments have been violated. It also files a motion for the return of all unlawfully seized data and materials.
Utilising the Patriot Act in the way that PRISM does, allowing for the collection of data at the merest sign of illegal activity related to terrorism (which is in itself an all encompassing word), the suit suggests that free speech has been hindered, since people can’t speak their minds knowing that such surveillance is taking place. On top of that, no-American was now safe from unlawful search and seizure of their digital records and information.
Other groups that have also challenged the PRISM scheme in court, include the Electronic Privacy Information Center, The American Civil Liberties Union and former chairman of Judicial Watch, Larry Klayman.
KitGuru Says: It’s nice to see more than a few organisations getting behind this one, as it’ll lend a lot more weight to it. So far the government’s response has been silent, but it’ll be interesting to see how it responds – probably with rhetoric and vagary.