Church Leaders, Gun Groups Sue NSA Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Phone Surveillance

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By Kelly Burke for Intellectual Property Watch 

Church leaders, gun ownership advocates and other rights activists came together today to file a lawsuit against the US National Security Agency (NSA), declaring its surveillance programme unconstitutional. The broad coalition of plantiffs is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The complaint, First Unitarian Church v. NSA [pdf], was filed against the NSA, United States of America, US Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the directors of the agencies, and specifically targets NSA’s collection of phone data. It challenges what the plaintiffs describe as an “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance” that violates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the US Constitution.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties,” EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said in a press release.

The plantiffs are asking for a jury trial and are calling for the US government to “return and destroy any telephone communications information in its possession.”

The complete list of plantiffs includes: the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Calguns Foundation, California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Council on American Islamic Relations – California, Ohio, and Foundation, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, Franklin Armory, Free Press, Free Software Foundation, Greenpeace, Inc., Human Rights Watch, Media Alliance, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Chapter, Open Technology Institute, People for the American Way, Public Knowledge, Students for a Sensible Drug Policy, TechFreedom, and Unitarian Universalist Service Commission.

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