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Electronic Frontier Foundation Government Privacy The Courts United States

EFF Sues NSA, Justice Department, FBI 333

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
New submitter Jawnn writes "The Washington Post reports that the EFF has filed suit against the NSA in Federal Court in San Francisco, on behalf of multiple groups (court filing). Those groups include, 'Rights activists, church leaders and drug and gun rights advocates.' EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said, '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. Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.' Apparently, not everyone out there is believing the 'If you have nothing to hide' excuses being offered up from various government quarters."
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EFF Sues NSA, Justice Department, FBI

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  • Re:Bravo EFF (Score:5, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @03:57PM (#44301521)

    I wonder when Paypal will stop processing donations to the EFF.

  • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stanlyb (1839382) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @04:07PM (#44301619)
    Well, what's wrong with actually having anything to hide? No, really, you make it sound as it is a bad thing, but please, show me where in the constitution it is written that if you have something to hide, the minimum sentence is 4 years, for example...
  • by Richy_T (111409) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @04:15PM (#44301739) Homepage

    I would say the 9th is probably the most important and most overlooked.

  • by organgtool (966989) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @04:16PM (#44301763)
    I imagine the court will say that the government is not stopping anyone from exercising their rights to free speech simply because they are recording their conversations and building graphs of associations. It would seem more effective to claim these rights under the Fourth Amendment since this deals more with privacy than the First Amendment. In any event, this will likely end the way it did the last time the EFF tried to sue the federal government - the court will seek documents from the security agencies, the security agencies will claim that they can not reveal that information for reasons of "national security", and the court will say that the EFF doesn't have a case since they don't have any evidence due to the fact that the defendant refuses to provide the documents the court requested. This is how fascism begins in a democracy.
  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @04:19PM (#44301805) Homepage

    here's the basic premise in the founding of the enlightenment model US (boiled down):
    rights were given to you by your creator, not by your government.
    your government didn't give them to so, they can't take them away.

    if any right is allowed to be redefined as a privilege, or if it is re-cast as something "given" to you by a government then all rights can be redefined or recast. and if they are redefined, they can be taken away arbitrarilly. so they are all equally important. if you want to keep any of your rights then you must be pro-gun, skateboarding isn't a crime, don't spy on us, free speach even if i don't like it, punk rock anarchist. anything less is just a slow slide into slavery.

    god knows we have too many people who only care about the rights they feel like using. conservative and liberal.

  • by gnujoshua (540710) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @04:31PM (#44301937) Homepage
    The plaintiffs include:
    • First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
    • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
    • Calguns Foundation
    • California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
    • Council on Islamic Relations
    • Franklin Armory
    • Free Press
    • Free Software Foundation
    • Greenpeace
    • Human Rights Watch
    • Media Alliance
    • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
    • Open Technology Institute
    • People for the American Way, Public Knowledge
    • Students for Sensible Drug Policy
    • TechFreedom
    • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @05:07PM (#44302371) Journal

    The fourth amendment's applicability is only certain in the minds of privacy advocates. Legally, the fourth amendment is generally held to mean that the government can't disrupt your life with its searches

    That "legal" interpretation is the one that exists only in the minds of certain government lawyers. The 4th amendment is unequivocal. No warrants shall issue without specifically describing the places to be searched or the things to be seized. Generalized surveillance can never comply with this restriction.

    The NSA's sniffing is legally comparable to a police dragnet checking door-to-door for a suspect - it infringes privacy, but the impact on any particular person's life isn't unreasonable.

    That's also blatantly unconstitutional. If you don't have probable cause to believe the person you want is in my house, you don't get to search my house.

    The "legal" arguments you are putting forth here are incompatible with the actual text of the Constitution. This needs to stop.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @05:14PM (#44302435)

    The fourth amendment's applicability is only certain in the minds of privacy advocates.

    The fourth amendment's applicability hinges on the word "unreasonable" in the first sentence. The question is whether the NSA's activities constitute a reasonable search. This can be debated but I have heard no argument yet that convinces me that the NSA has not crossed the line into conducting an unreasonable search. And since they have managed to keep everything a secret I can't even prove I have standing in a court of law to sue for a violation of my rights.

    The NSA's sniffing is legally comparable to a police dragnet checking door-to-door for a suspect - it infringes privacy, but the impact on any particular person's life isn't unreasonable.

    When the police are looking for a suspect they are looking for a specific person and they do not continue to infringe upon your person or property indefinitely and in secret. The NSA's program would be like the police showing up daily and rooting through your mailbox and phone bills looking for information that might incriminate you without any warrant or even probable cause.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @05:25PM (#44302581)

    Legally, the fourth amendment is generally held to mean that the government can't disrupt your life with its searches or target someone specifically without a good enough reason to convince a judge.

    So it would be legal to search our homes with tiny insect drones as long as they search all our homes?

    It doesn't disrupt our lives, and its not targeting someone specifically.

    The argument really shouldn't be "is that legal?", it should be "that's not what we as a society want, so make it illegal and amend the constitution to do it if we have to."

    This is -why- the constitution is a "living document"; we're supposed to be able to fix it when a hole like this shows up. We shouldn't have to make difficult reaching arguments about how a surveillance state is a 1st or 4th amendment violation.

  • by Sir Holo (531007) on Tuesday July 16, 2013 @07:33PM (#44304011)
    An attorney pursues all violations (crimes) that apply to a case. This NSA stuff (IANAL) is conceivably both.

    First Amendment (...the right to peaceably assemble...): Let's say that you talk on the phone with a weightlifting buddy. You "assemble" with the guy to lift weights. For reasons unknown, the NSA thinks he's a potential terrorist. Oops! Well, now, guess what? By association, under the NSA's tapping procedures, you are also swept into their dragnet of invasive surveillance, and they start examining who you call (leading, arguably, to the additional fourth-amendment violations of an unreasonable search).

    The "...unreasonable search..." bit of the fourth will undoubtedly end up in the Supreme Court for final interpretation.

    From a logical perspective, why would the NSA be spending all of this effort on collecting and correlating population-wide who-called-who and when information, if they didn't think it would provide them with information. Specifically, information that they couldn't get without otherwise violating known and established-by-prior-case laws?

    They're essentially exploiting an area of the law that is vague in relation to the very recent explosion of electronic communication and metadata storage thereof. The constitution doesn't define "unreasonable" in terms of "envelope information" on phone calls, emails, or physical letters.

    The NSA has also argued, in press releases or public discussions, that because you share your telephone call metadata with a company, that you have forsaken all rights to privacy of that information. A ludicrous argument.

    I have a reasonable, but only tacit, expectation AT&T isn't going to post all of my telephone metadata from the past 10 years in the New York Times tomorrow. This should be codified into law. What legislator, attorney, negotiator, or lobbyist would agree to the idea that all of their communications metadata is public? Hmmn?

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