A Unitarian church, gun rights advocates and 17 other groups joined forces Tuesday to challenge what they called the National Security Agency’s illegal telephone surveillance program. In a federal lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the groups called the NSA monitoring an “unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance.”
“The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF Legal Director.
The suit was filed by EFF on behalf of the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the Calguns Foundation, Inc., a San Carlos non-profit promoting firearms education and ownership rights, as well as the Council on American Islamic Relations, Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch, among others.
The suit alleges that the NSA collection of telephone communications information includes records of who each customer communicates with, at what time, for how long and how often. The groups charge the associational tracking program has been conducted since October 2001.
The suit does not allege the NSA listens to the content of conversations.
The suit alleges the phone companies voluntarily provided telephone communications information beginning in 2001 and collects and acquires information in bulk from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.
The suit claims violation of constitutional protections, including First Amendment free speech and association rights, as well as Fourth Amendment rights against illegal searches and Fifth Amendment rights.
EFF asks the court to block further government collection of the data and destruction of the information collected in the past.
Case: FirstUnitarianChurch of Los Angeles v. NSA, No. CV13-32387JCS
Image source: EFF