ACLU Appeals Dismissal of Lawsuit Challenging NSA Call-Tracking Program

January 2, 2014 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a notice of appeal in their federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s mass call-tracking program. Last Friday, the district court dismissed the case, ACLU v. Clapper, ruling that the program was constitutional and did not exceed the authority provided in the Patriot Act.

"We believe that the NSA’s call-tracking program violates both statutory law and the Constitution, and we look forward to making our case in the appeals court," said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, one of the two ACLU attorneys who argued the case in November.

"The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance. Further, as the president’s own review panel recently observed, there’s no evidence that this dragnet program was essential to preventing any terrorist attack. We categorically reject the notion that the threat of terrorism requires citizens of democratic countries to surrender the freedoms that make democracies worth defending."

The ACLU anticipates that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will set an expedited briefing schedule and that it will hear oral argument in the spring.

Last week’s ruling by U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III conflicted with the December 16 decision in a similar lawsuit in Washington, Klayman v. Obama, in which U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon found the NSA program to be likely unconstitutional. The Justice Department has 60 days to file an appeal. A federal court in San Francisco is currently considering a third case, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services, which, as revealed in The Guardian, received a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court compelling the company to turn over "on an ongoing daily basis" phone call details such as whom calls are placed to and from, and when those calls are made. The lawsuit argues that the government’s blanket seizure of the ACLU’s phone records compromises the organization’s ability to carry out its work and to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, whistleblowers, and others.

Today’s appeal is available at:

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