More than five years ago, EFF filed the first lawsuit aimed at stopping the government’s illegal mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans’ private communications. <=”" a=”">Whistleblower evidence combined with news reports and Congressional admissions revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) was tapped into AT&T’s domestic network and databases, sweeping up Americans’ emails, phone calls and communications records in bulk and without court approval.
Hepting v. AT&T, our case challenging the telecom giant’s illegal collaboration with the NSA, faced a barrage of attacks from the government — including outrageous claims that national security prevented the courts from considering whether AT&T and the government were breaking the law and violating the Constitution. When that gambit seemed to be failing, the White House and the telecoms led a lobbying campaign to convince Congress to pass a law threatening to terminate our suit. When that law passed we filed a follow-up suit directly against the government, Jewel v. NSA, to open a second front in our fight to stop the spying.
On August 31, 2011, at 2 pm in Seattle, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear a warrantless wiretapping double-feature, to decide whether the Hepting and Jewel cases can proceed. At stake will be whether the courts can consider the legality and constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s mass interception of Americans’ Internet traffic, phone calls, and communications records.
Jewel v. NSA, EFF’s case directly against the government and government officials, will be argued by EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. The District Court dismissed Jewel on the grounds that, because millions of Americans had been illegally spied upon, no single American had standing to sue. The alarming upshot of the court’s decision is that as long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional. EFF will argue that the number of people harmed should have no bearing on whether each individual — whose own communications and communications records are being intercepted and diverted to the government — should be able to sue. More