For Immediate Release
ACLU Sues for Records About Government's Use of Unconstitutional Spying Powers
NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union and the
New York Civil Liberties Union sued the government today for the
release of documents about the implementation of the FISA Amendments Act
of 2008 (FAA), an unconstitutional spying law that gives the executive
branch virtually unchecked power to collect Americans' international
e-mails and telephone calls in dragnet fashion, without a warrant and
without suspicion of wrongdoing.
"Despite being in operation for
nearly two years, the American public is largely in the dark about how
the controversial FISA Amendments Act has been implemented in practice,"
said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security
Project. "The public has a right to know how the government is using,
and possibly abusing, an intrusive surveillance power that implicates
the privacy and speech rights of all U.S. citizens and residents."
The lawsuit seeks to enforce a
November 2009 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records
related to the government's interpretation and implementation of the
FAA, including reports and assessments mandated by the law concerning
how the FAA is being used, how many Americans are affected by this
sweeping spying regime and what safeguards are in place to prevent abuse
of Americans' privacy rights. The government has not yet released any
of the records requested, and today's lawsuit asks a federal judge to
order it to do so. The lawsuit alleges that the requested records are
needed to enable informed public debate about whether the FAA - which
expires in 2012 - should be repealed, amended or extended.
The ACLU filed today's FOIA lawsuit
against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice
Department, National Security Agency and Defense Department in the U.S.
District Court for the Southern District of New York.
In July 2008, the ACLU and the NYCLU
filed a landmark lawsuit to stop the government from conducting
surveillance under the FAA on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys
and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose work
requires them to engage in sensitive and sometimes privileged telephone
and e-mail communications with colleagues, clients, journalistic
sources, witnesses, experts, foreign government officials and victims of
human rights abuses located outside the United States. A district court
dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs could not challenge the
secret surveillance law because they could not prove that their own
communications had been monitored under it. The ACLU and NYCLU appealed
that ruling and have asked a federal appeals court to reinstate the
case. The groups argued that, because of the secret nature of the FAA,
the law may never be subject to judicial review at all if Americans are
prohibited from challenging it unless they can show that their own
communications have been collected.
"It is unfortunate that once again we
have to sue over the secrecy that continues to shroud so much of our
government's work," said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher
Dunn. "While we have seen recent improvements in transparency, much more
remains to be done before we have a truly open government."
Attorneys on the FOIA case are
Goodman and Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU and Dunn and Arthur Eisenberg of
Today's FOIA complaint is available
online at: www.aclu.org/national-
More information about the ACLU's
challenge to the FAA is available at: www.aclu.org/faa
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.