The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a press release today stating that it and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) has filed a constitutional challenge to the recently publicized surveillance program. The press release says the program “vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States.”
Specifically, 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.”
Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, further explains the reasoning behind the lawsuit in the press release:
“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens. 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 Patriot Act refers to the anti-terrorism law that the Bush Admin. passed to vastly increase the powers of the federal government to collect phone information on American citizens. Apparently, things are even worse now. The ACLU is trying to doing something about it.
At this point, the lawsuit is specifically about the collection of phone data without a warrant. The ACLU is a customer of Verizon, so they are suing on behalf of themselves.
The New York Times raised and interesting point that this suit will possibly expose the entire PRISM program (including its mining of our personal internet and other data) to legal challenges of this kind. Indeed, in order to dismantle the program, others will have to step bravely forward to assert that the program is unconstitutional.