Well, that was quick. As we noted, just yesterday, USA Today published a detailed takedown of the DEA’s massive phone records mass surveillance program that was actually started more than two decades ago. And this morning, the EFF, representing Human Rights Watch, filed a lawsuit over the program. Of course, the program had actually been revealed years ago, and back in January, the US government revealed some details itself about the program, which is what prompted the new lawsuit. As the EFF notes in its press release about the lawsuit:
“The DEA’s program of untargeted and suspicionless surveillance of Americans’ international telephone call records—information about the numbers people call, and the time, date, and duration of those calls—affects millions of innocent people, yet the DEA operated the program in secret for years,’’ said EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo. “Both the First and Fourth Amendment protect Americans from this kind of overreaching surveillance. This lawsuit aims to vindicate HRW’s rights, and the rights of all Americans, to make calls overseas without being subject to government surveillance.”
I recommend reading the full complaint which has more details. It details why the program violates both the First and Fourth Amendments. The basic First Amendment argument:
By their acts alleged herein, Defendants have violated and are violating the First Amendment free speech and free association rights of Plaintiff and its staff, including the right to communicate anonymously, the right to associate privately, and the right to engage in protected advocacy free from government interference.
And the Fourth Amendment argument:
By the acts alleged herein, Defendants have violated Plaintiff’s reasonable expectation of privacy and denied Plaintiff its right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
It seems likely that the government will pull out all the usual stops to try to end this lawsuit, arguing “national security” and “state secrets” and all that jazz. However, as the USA Today report noted, Eric Holder agreed to kill off this program after realizing that it was nearly impossible to defend in the same manner as the feds were trying to defend the NSA’s bulk phone records collection…