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The EFF has been battling illegal US surveillance at the hands of the NSA in the courts. Recently, three members of the NSA oversight committee lent their support to the Smith versus Obama case. They state that US surveillance on phone data has needlessly violated the privacy of Americans. The briefs will be taken under consideration at the next hearing, scheduled for November.
Amicus Briefs Uphold Claims that US Surveillance is a Massive Invasion of Privacy
Millions of American citizens have been illegally surveilled by the NSA under the guise of national security. This is the cry of privacy advocates who have fought the agency’s continued invasive and warrantless spying activities. But the government has resolutely defended the NSA’s bulk phone data collection programs. They continue to claim that their phone data collection programs are necessary and perfectly harmless.
Just last week, the EFF announced that the case has been backed by some impressive parties. Six recent amicus briefs have been filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. One gives the statements of three senators who are part of the committee that is responsible for overseeing the NSA. In the brief, Senators Mark Udall, Martin Heinrich and Ron Wyden testify that they have not seen any proof to the agency’s claims.
Namely, US surveillance involving massive collection of the phone records of Americans has not given the agency or government any functional information that would have been otherwise unobtainable. The NSA could very well have gathered the needed intelligence through other means that would not so violate Americans’ privacy. They have legal means at their disposal by which to collect the call data of terror suspects. They don’t need to use the USA Patriot Act’s Section 215, which is already abused due to vague delineations of power, to allow warrantless searches. Mass data gathering is not vital to the NSA’s efforts to stay informed for counterterrorism investigations.
Many other government officials have said the same, including the president, and the addition of this brief is key to the appeal. The decision of the court that mass US surveillance on phone data is essential to national security must be reversed. Other briefs added to the case help develop arguments that US surveillance on phones hurt Americans’ privacy and violate their constitutional rights. They also expound on the questionable arguments of the government that support US surveillance.
Specifically, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) brief talks about the dangers of metadata collection and storage and the flimsy old limited collection rules that the NSA uses to justify mass data gathering. The Center for National Security Studies brings up another law they hide behind, Section 215, as equally inadequate to justify mass US surveillance. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the PEN American Center and the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press have submitted briefs that detail how attorney-client privileges, reporter-source confidentiality, and freedoms of speech and expression are severely violated by these US surveillance programs run by the NSA.