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Wikimedia and ACLU Team Up to Challenge NSA Data Collection Program

The suit represents a new effort by critics of the NSA's mass data collection program to shut it down.

National Security Agency / Wikipedia

The American Civil Liberties Union renewed its legal fight to shut down the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program Tuesday morning, arguing Tuesday in a new lawsuit that the program is unconstitutional.

The NSA’s bulk data collection program violates free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure covered by the Fourth Amendment, according to the ACLU lawsuit, which was filed in a U.S. District Court in Maryland, where the NSA is based.

The lawsuit represents just the latest effort by critics of the U.S. intelligence community’s surveillance programs to curb its collection Americans’ data. Lawmakers have been unable so far to pass legislation that would curb the NSA’s data collection and President Obama has not directed the agency to stop the program, although he has suggested changes to it and has supported some of the congressional proposals.

This is the second time the ACLU has tried to use the federal courts to shut down the controversial mass surveillance program.

It was behind a similar lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court before being shot down in 2013 on a 5-4 vote because the majority of justices found that the ACLU and other human rights advocates hadn’t shown they had been harmed by the program.

That lawsuit was focused more on concerns about government surveillance allowed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and came before the revelations of NSA data collection unveiled by former contractor Edward Snowden.

Now, the ACLU has enlisted the help of several organizations who allege that the NSA has created a massive “dragnet” for Americans’ communications. Plaintiffs in the suit include Wikimedia, which publishes Wikipedia; Human Rights Watch; and Amnesty International. The suit argues that the plaintiffs’ “sensitive communications have been copied, searched and likely retained by the NSA.”

“As our lawsuit explains, the NSA is exceeding even the authority granted by the FISA Amendments Act,” the ACLU said Tuesday morning. “Rather than limit itself to monitoring Americans’ communications with the foreign targets, the NSA is spying on everyone, trying to find out who might be talking or reading about those targets.”

A spokesperson for the NSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new lawsuit.

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