This story originally appeared Wednesday, July 16, 2014 at the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Court of Appeals Agrees to Expedite Case Over Telephone Records Collection
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho have announced they will join Anna Smith’s legal team in her challenge of the government’s bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans.
Smith, an emergency neonatal nurse and pregnant mother of two, filed her suit against President Obama and several U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after the government confirmed revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Smith, a customer of Verizon wireless, one of the companies that was ordered to disclose records to the NSA, argued the program violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by collecting a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations.
“When I found out that the NSA was collecting records of my phone calls, I was shocked,” said Smith, who is also represented by her husband, Peter J Smith IV, and Idaho State Rep. Luke Malek. “I have heard of other governments spying indiscriminately on their own citizens, but I naively thought it did not happen in America. I believe who I call, when I call them, and how long we talk is not something the government should be able to get without a warrant. I sued because I believe the Constitution protects my calls from government searches. I am thrilled that the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed to assist us in this case. What Americans can reasonably expect to remain private is an issue of monumental importance.”
When U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill dismissed Smith’s case, he expressed grave concerns about the privacy implications of the NSA’s surveillance but said that he believed that a 1979 Supreme Court case about targeted surveillance tied his hands. Smith is now appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
EFF and the ACLU have each litigated numerous First and Fourth amendment lawsuits, including ongoing cases over this very NSA program. The ACLU is a plaintiff in a case currently pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to be heard in early September. EFF has two cases before the Northern California Federal court. Smith v. Obama represents another opportunity to halt this mass surveillance.
“Anna Smith proves that a single citizen has the power to stand up for her rights and challenge the government when it tramples them,” EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn said. “EFF is proud to lend our expertise in pursuing her appeal, which could very well be one of the cases that makes it to the Supreme Court.”
The court has granted Smith’s motion to expedite the case, with the opening brief due on Sept. 2, 2014.
“The call records program needlessly invades the privacy of millions of people,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “Even the President has acknowledged that the NSA does not need to collect information about every phone call in order to track the associations of suspected terrorists. Dragnet surveillance on this scale is both unconstitutional and unnecessary.”