Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NSA domestic spying furor rises: Multiple lawsuits and StopWatching.us

The legal sh*t hit the fan on Monday and Tuesday, with regard to the NSA's domestic dual spying programs. On Monday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), leading a bipartisan coalition of 86 civil liberties organizations and Internet companies, demanded that the NSA's spying programs be halted.

Not only did the group send an open letter to Congress, the letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.us, a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States' domestic spying capabilities and to bring an end to illegal surveillance.

The full list of 86 members, which includes the EFF, reddit, Mozilla, FreedomWorks, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is available at the EFF's post, linked above.

That was just the beginning. Also on Monday, a former federal prosecutor and the parents of a Navy SEAL member killed in action in Afghanistan filed a lawsuit against U.S. President Barack Obama, Verizon, the National Security Agency (NSA) and others over the Verizon Wireless NSA domestic spying program disclosed by The Guardian last week.

The three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and a former prosecutor, and Charles and Mary Strange, the parents of Michael Strange, a Navy SEAL who was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan by the Taliban.

The lawsuit alleges violations of constitutionally protected privacy rights and rights against unreasonable search and seizure. It says, in part:
This is an action for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. This is also an action for violations of privacy, including intrusion upon, seclusion, freedom of expression and association, due process, and other illegal acts.
The lawsuit seeks $3 billion in actual and compensatory damages as well as a halt to the NSA spying program.

Finally, on Tuesday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit, also against the Verizon Wireless phone spying program, calling it a “dragnet” collection of logs of domestic phone calls.

The filing opens as follows:
This lawsuit challenges the government’s dragnet acquisition of Plaintiffs’ telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, 50 U.S.C. § 1861. In response to information published by the media, the government has acknowledged that it is relying on Section 215 to collect “metadata” about every phone call made or received by residents of the United States.

The practice is akin to snatching every American’s address book—with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where. It gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious, and intimate associations.
The NSA's two programs were outed by Edward Snowden last week. The Verizon Wireless program -- which is believed, by most, to include at least the U.S. Big Four wireless carriers -- involves Verizon reporting the following -- for all phone calls made by all its subscribers -- to the NSA on a daily basis:
  • Caller phone number
  • Recipient phone number(s)
  • Duration of call
  • Time of the call
  • Location of all parties
  • Other unique identifiers
The second program, PRISM, reportedly allows the government to access data from a number of Internet companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, and YouTube.

Revelations about the programs -- which many, though not all, in Congress were aware of -- has caused a furor among many in the U.S. Despite this, the American people seem divided on the issue. A new Pew Research poll shows that 56 percent of those surveyed find phone tracking acceptable as an anti-terrorist measure.

Meanwhile, only 45 percent find data tracking, as in PRISM, acceptable.

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