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Iran Press TV

New lawsuit challenges mass surveillance by NSA

Iran Press TV

Tue Mar 10, 2015 2:50PM

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a major new lawsuit on behalf of a broad group of organizations who are challenging the US government's mass surveillance programs.

The ACLU, a civil liberties advocacy group, filed the lawsuit Tuesday against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the US Department of Justice over mass spying programs that it says violate core provisions of the US Constitution.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 9 organizations, including the human rights groups Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch, as well as the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit organization that runs free online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

"This kind of dragnet surveillance constitutes a massive invasion of privacy, and it undermines the freedoms of expression and inquiry as well," said ACLU Staff Attorney Patrick Toomey. "Ordinary Americans shouldn't have to worry that the government is looking over their shoulders when they use the Internet."

The lawsuit argues that the NSA's so-called upstream surveillance interferes with the organizations' abilities to do their jobs because their work requires them to engage in sensitive communications with people outside the United States.

The NSA's upstream surveillance involves the agency secretly accessing the Internet "backbone" inside the United States – the physical infrastructure that carries online communications. The program also collects communications with 'non-US persons' in order to obtain foreign intelligence information.

'By tapping the backbone of the Internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,' said Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a statement announcing the legal action.

"Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users' privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people's ability to create and understand knowledge," said Tretikov.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Baltimore, Maryland near NSA headquarters, argues that the spy agency violates the US Constitution's First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

The scale of NSA's mass surveillance has been revealed in documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden since 2013. Snowden fled his country in May 2013 to avoid espionage charges. Russia granted him asylum in August of that year.


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