Trials & Litigation

Greenpeace, gun groups join in suit over US surveillance 'dragnet' by Electronic Frontier Foundation

A wide swath of interest groups, ranging from Greenpeace to gun rights advocates, have joined the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a coalition of 19 organizations in filing a legal challenge to what the plaintiffs describe as an “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance” by the U.S. government.

Filed Tuesday in federal court in San Francisco, in the wake of revelations by Edward Snowden about routine government collection of so-called “metadata” about cellphone calls made by Americans, the suit seeks a court order requiring the feds to cease such surveillance and eliminate its records of phone numbers to which calls have been made, reports the Associated Press.

The Law & Disorder page of Ars Technica provides a link to the complaint (PDF).

It asserts claims for alleged violation of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, contending that AT&T and Sprint, as well as Verizon, participate in a data-collection program in which phone numbers for all calls made and received, as well as the time and length of the calls, is provided to the U.S. government.

In years past, such a suit likely might have been defeated for lack of standing, notes law professor Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago.

“But it’s now clear that virtually everyone’s phone call records can be gathered in this metadata collection program, so I believe they do have standing,” he tells the AP.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to an AP request for comment.

A similar lawsuit was filed last month by the ACLU. Earlier this month, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a petition directly with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order.

Meanwhile, Snowden remains holed up at a Russian airport and, his lawyer told the AP, filed an application Tuesday for temporary asylum in Russia.

He is reportedly planning eventually to relocate to South America in a country that won’t extradite him to the U.S., but is having difficulty arranging to get there since his passport was revoked by U.S. authorities.

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