ACLU File Lawsuit Against the NSA and the United States Government

Created: 2013-06-12 10:58 EST

Category: World > North America

 The Obama administration has launched an internal review of the potential damage to national security from leaks about U.S. surveillance efforts, as a group of senators and technology companies on Tuesday (June 11) pushed the government to be more open about the top-secret programs.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said the review will be separate from a Justice Department criminal investigation into Edward Snowden's disclosures about the National Security Agency's broad monitoring of phone call and Internet data from big companies such as Google Inc and Facebook Inc.
The review is expected to evaluate whether the leaks have compromised sources or surveillance methods, and would likely look for chatter among intelligence targets to see if the leaks have prompted them to change tactics.
[Alex Abdo, ACLU National Security Project]:
"This program is a massive and unprecedented grab of information by the intelligence agencies. They're sweeping up or they are tracking literally every call made in this country and the Constitution simply doesn't allow the government to do that. If it has a reason to suspect a particular American of wrongdoing, then the government should target that American for investigation or surveillance. But they shouldn't indiscriminately sweep up the calls of millions of innocent Americans."
The revelations from Snowden have launched a sharp debate about the tradeoffs between privacy rights and national security in the United States and whether the surveillance measures have been given sufficient scrutiny and oversight.
A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill designed to end the secret supervision of the programs by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court by requiring declassification of significant court rulings.
Big technology companies issued a series of pleas on Tuesday for the government to lift the veil on national security requests to the private sector.
Google sent a letter to U.S. authorities asking that secrecy restrictions be loosened so the company could publish the number and scope of surveillance court requests.
Microsoft Corp and Facebook also released statements urging the U.S. government to permit greater transparency on such requests.
Separately, a coalition of privacy advocacy groups sent a letter demanding that Congress halt and investigate the surveillance programs.
In New York, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the legality of the telephone surveillance program, saying it violates free speech and privacy protections in the U.S. Constitution.
[Alex Abdo, ACLU National Security Project]: 
"We are suing the government, several branches of the government, the National Security Agency, the FBI, the DOJ for the unprecedented surveillance that the government is now undertaking to all Verizon customers and in essence all Americans. Everytime an American makes a phone call now, the government is tracking the calls. They are tracking who we call, when we call, how long we talk. And that's the program that we are challenging. And we are challenging it on behalf of the ACLU. Last week, the Guardian disclosed an order signed by secret court in Washington ordering Verizon Business, which is a division of Verizon, to turn over all the call records of Verizon business customers and the ACLU is one of those customers."
Snowden flew to Hong Kong on May 20 so he would be in a place that might be able to resist U.S. prosecution attempts, he told the Guardian. He also mentioned Iceland as a possible refuge, and Russia has said it would be willing to consider granting him asylum.
[Thomas Drake, Former Official at the National Security Agency]:
"Advice is to be lawyered up to the max and find a place where it's going to be that much more difficult for the United States to make arrangements for his return and always check six."
Drake, a 56-year-old former intelligence official at the National Security Agency, was prosecuted under the Espionage Act in 2010 for allegedly revealing classified information about the agency's sweeping warrantless wire-tapping program. The government later dropped all but a misdemeanor charge.