Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

ACLU Sues Government Over Surveillance Programs

constitutionYou can’t say you didn’t see this one coming, but the American Civil Liberties Union has just sued James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, arguing that the recently disclosed surveillance programs tracking the phone and Internet use of American citizens violate the First and Fourth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The suit, filed in a federal court in New York, also names Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency. (Here’s a PDF copy of the original complaint.)

“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,” the opening section of the complaint reads. “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 ACLU points out that, in a case last year, a majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court supported the idea that collecting troves of seemingly innocuous information on people — in this case, data collected from GPS trackers planted by police — amounts to a pretty clear violation of someone’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. In that case, the court found that a GPS tracker placed on someone’s car by police and used to track his movements for a month, qualifies as an unreasonable search. The programs disclosed in recent days are “precisely that kind of unreasonable incursion into Americans’ private lives,” the ACLU said in a statement.

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