It’s been eight years since the Electronic Frontier Foundation first filed its lawsuit against the National Security Agency, but they were just recently granted permission to conduct an investigation into the agency’s surveillance of Americans.
In the case, Jewel v. NSA, the EFF is representing AT&T customers against the NSA in order to stop the dragnet surveillance they have been involved in with users’ communications records. Dragnet surveillance means that although the NSA may be attempting to search one person within a general area or group of people, the entire group inherently gets searched for incriminating evidence in the process. This practice, in a number of forms, has been deemed unconstitutional time and time again because it is recognized as unreasonable search and seizure.
This is a huge step in the right direction, as information revealed in the investigation could show the unlawful practices that the NSA and other intelligence agencies have been using against American citizens for years.
Evidence gathered against the NSA so far, before the EFF was even allowed to investigate their actual records, includes documents from a former AT&T telecommunications technician showing AT&T routing copies of records to a secret room run by the NSA, testimony from three NSA whistleblowers, and documents regarding the “upstream” collection of communications from fiber optic cables.
Previously, the government had barred the EFF from investigating how the programs to collect data from Americans worked within the NSA, arguing that the state secrets privilege protected the NSA from discovery and exposure. Though the case was at risk of being dismissed, a federal court heard the matter and rejected the state secrets claim and ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act could be properly used to litigate any classified documents.
Americans still have a long way to go before regaining their right to privacy, but this is a landmark decision that will get them on the right path.
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