ACLU sues for details of U.S. surveillance under executive order

NEW YORK Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:54pm EST

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/REUTERS

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah, December 16, 2013. Jim Urquhart/

Credit: Reuters

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to force the U.S. government to disclose details of its foreign electronic surveillance program and what protections it provides to Americans whose communications are swept up.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, came three days after the ACLU lost a bid to block a separate program that collects the phone calls of millions of Americans.

The latest lawsuit seeks information related to the use of Executive Order 12333, which was signed in 1981 and governs surveillance of foreign targets.

Under the order, the National Security Administration is collecting "vast quantities" of data globally under the order's authority, "inevitably" including communications of U.S. citizens, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit cites "recent revelations," an apparent reference to reports about U.S. spying activities in the wake of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"This FOIA request seeks, in part, to determine what protections are afforded to those U.S. persons and whether those protections are consistent with the Constitution," it said.

A representative for the Justice Department, which will defend the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit follows a series of requests to U.S. agencies for the information under the Freedom of Information Act, which it said have not resulted in substantive responses.

Alex Abdo, an ACLU staff attorney, said in a blog post that the government was using the order as a way to spy on the international communication of U.S. citizens.

"The core of the problem is that the NSA has, for years, relied upon its authority to gather foreign intelligence as permission to conduct sweeping surveillance of Americans' international communications," Abdo wrote.

The lawsuit cites news reports indicating that under the order, the NSA is collecting data on cell phone locations and email contact lists, as well as information from Google Inc and Yahoo! Inc user accounts.

Among the records sought by the ACLU are any construing or interpreting the scope of agencies' authority under the executive order.

It also seeks records describing minimization procedures used by the agencies related to intelligence collection and interpretation pursuant to the order.

The lawsuit names as defendants the NSA, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Department, Justice Department and State Department.

The case is American Civil Liberties Union et al v. National Security Agency et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-9198.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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Comments (5)
AlkalineState wrote:
I love that the righties are now gunning for an ACLU win. Not seeming so frivolous now, eh? If we got nothing else out of this, we got this valuable lesson: Civil liberties are civil liberties.

Dec 30, 2013 6:05pm EST  --  Report as abuse
cheeze wrote:
These guys love wasting tax payer money defending against such dumb cases. Wake up, it’s a new world today defending against terrorism.

Dec 30, 2013 7:27pm EST  --  Report as abuse
usaisone wrote:
Edward Snowden “Man of the Year” Accomplished what 535 members of Congress couldn’t. Taking Obama Down !

Dec 30, 2013 7:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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