The ACLU and the NYCLU filed the first major lawsuit against the U.S. government Wednesday since The Guardian revealed last week that the NSA has been collecting the phone data of all U.S. calls for the past seven years.
Filed with the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, the lawsuit — ACLU v Clapper — calls for the end of the NSA’s broad domestic phone surveillance program, arguing that it violates the U.S. Constitution and exceeds the Patriot Act.
Both the ACLU and NYCLU were customers of Verizon Business Network Services, which was revealed last week to have been served with a routinely renewed secret court order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that mandated Verizon hand over on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ domestic phone records.
“This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director said in a statement.
The details revealed are considered the most significant national security intelligence leak since The Pentagon Papers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a separate lawsuit against the U.S. government originally filed in 2008, has also called for the end to the government’s dragnet surveillance program.
The Obama administration and top lawmakers overseeing the intelligence community have been reeling from the backlash, defending the legality and effectiveness of the programs in question.
The information brought forth, however, has thrown the nation’s top spies and law enforcement officials, and the secret laws governing their powers, into the light, forcing a very public discussion over the abuses of power in the digital age.
“The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project.
A class action suit already in place against the U.S. government for the NSA’s routine collection is expected to be amended Wednesday to include the Internet companies alleged to have partnered with the NSA regarding a secret Internet surveillance program, reported U.S. News & World Report.
The accused Internet companies — AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube — have all denied any knowledge or the program.