Civil liberties campaigners with the ACLU told a New York court Friday that the NSA’s dragnet collection of U.S. phone records violates constitutional rights to freedom of association and privacy.
The ACLU called for the end of the NSA’s program, arguing that it breached the First and Fourth amendments and exceeded the authority Congress gave to the executive branch via the Patriot Act. According to documents made available by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the agency collects massive amounts of metadata from the phone company Verizon, including the numbers of both parties on a call, call duration and the time of call. The contents of the conversation are reportedly not collected.
“This kind of dragnet surveillance is precisely what the fourth amendment was meant to prohibit,” ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, said before the hearing. “The constitution does not permit the NSA to place hundreds of millions of innocent people under permanent surveillance because of the possibility that information about some tiny subset of them will become useful to an investigation in the future.”
The case, ACLU v James Clapper, director of national intelligence, Keith Alexander, director of the NSA and others, was filed in June, shortly after the Guardian published a top-secret court order requiring Verizon to pass personal call data from millions of its customers to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis”. The revelation was the first in a series of articles exposing the scale of the NSA’s operations based on documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
... The legal challenges come as Verizon, AT&T and others are coming under increasing pressure to make more disclosures about their dealings with the NSA. Tech giants including Google, Facebook and Yahoo have increasingly spoken out against the NSA’s tactics and called for more disclosure. The telecoms companies have been largely silent.