Almost two dozen groups including Public Knowledge, Free Press and Green Peace, have sued the National Security Agency to try to stop it from gathering communications data, saying that its current surveilance program violates the law.
They are looking to block the massive phone record collection exposed by NSA whistleblower Eric Snowden.
“Programs like this that gather our communications data don’t just invade privacy; they also harm people’s First Amendment right of association," said said Sherwin Siy, VP of legal affairs for Public Knowledge. "When the government collects information about who calls whom, when, and how often, they get a vivid picture of a person’s contacts and associations. In the past, authorities have tried to compile lists of association members to discourage people from joining certain groups—the Supreme Court prevented Alabama from doing this to the NAACP in the 1950s. Chilling people from even contacting organizations does as much if not more harm."
The suit was filed in a California U.S. District Court and targets what the group calls a "dragnet" of electronic surveillance of data from Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, among others under the PATRIOT Act.
They argue that both the bulk collection, acquisition and storage of the data, then its analysis for communications histories of certain numbers, including associations and contacts over time, are unconstitutional violations of the First (speech), Fourth (unreasonable search and seizure) and Fifth (due process) Amendments, as well as statutes relating to electronic surveillance.