Electronic Frontier Foundation Sues NSA, Bush Administration for Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

By September 23, 2008

This past summer, Congress passed house resolution 6304, which granted retroactive immunity to telecommunication corporations from lawsuits involving domestic spying. To circumvent this legislation, Internet-rights groups are now directly bringing suit against the alleged eavesdroppers, i.e., the federal government. On Sept 18, the Electronic Frontier Foundation named George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, all Attorney Generals who served during the Bush Administration and NSA Director Keith Alexander as defendants in US District Court for their involvement in warrantless surveillance of American emails and phone calls. “The National Security Agency is vacuuming up millions upon millions of ordinary AT&T communications," said EFF senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston, who offered evidence to back up such allegations.

One of EFF’s key witnesses is Mark Klein, a retired AT&T telecommunications technician who has undisputed documents and accounts of suspicious NSA-AT&T communications. Allegedly, the evidence reveals that AT&T is routing internet traffic information to a secret NSA-controlled facility in San Francisco.

The class action (Jewel v. NSA), filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for constitutional and statutory violations. The Jewel complaint was filed in response to the immunity granted in HR 6304, which has stalled pending class actions against AT&T and Verizon. EFF argues that Congress' grant of retroactive immunity through resolution 6304 was unconstitutional.

John Adler, constitutional law professor at USF Law School, agrees. "This lawsuit is, on its face, a challenge to executive action, but it may have been made necessary in part by a failure of the legislative branch to fulfill its constitutional role." said Adler.

Filmmaker William Lewis of TakeBackWashington.com has documented customer reactions to Congress’ grant of immunity to telecommunications giants. The backlash from HR 6304 appears to exempt AT&T customers from penalties for early service termination. Unfortunately for iPhone users, the iPhone is not available from other telecommunication companies.

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