Wickimedia Foundation, along with other well-known media and civil rights groups, including the National Association of Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, PEN American Center, Global Fund for Women, The Nation Magazine, The Rutherford Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America filed suit against the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Security Service, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Department of Justice and each of their Directors this week over “Upstream” collection practices of Internet communications alleging they violate the First and Fourth Amendments and Article III of the Constitution.
In the suit, the groups, represented by the ACLU Foundation, declare that they are challenging ”the suspicionless seizure and searching of Internet traffic” by the NSA “on U.S. soil.” The allegations include that “the NSA conducts this surveillance, called “Upstream” surveillance, “by tapping directly into the internet backbone inside the United States—the network of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that today carry vast numbers of Americans’ communications with each other and with the rest of the world. In the course of this surveillance, the NSA is seizing Americans’ communications en masse while they are in transit, and it is searching the contents of substantially all international text-based communications—and many domestic communications as well—for tens of thousands of search terms.” One example of the scope of the surveillance is that in 2013, the Director of National Intelligence reported that the government was allowed to “target 89,138 individuals or groups or organizations for surveillance under a single court order” pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Further, it is estimated that the government gathered 250 million internet communications in 2011 alone. The crux of the allegations is that “the government has interpreted the FAA to allow it to intercept, copy, and review essentially everyone’s internet communications in order to search for identifiers associated with its targets. This intrusive and far reaching practice has no basis in the statute.”
The groups claim that it is essential to their mission to exchange information “free from warrantless government monitoring.” The suit requests that the Court declare that the Upstream surveillance of internet communications is unlawful and to enjoin the government from continuing the surveillance and to purge all communications received from Upstream surveillance from government databases.