Us Against Them: Strange Bedfellows Suing The NSA Illustrate Government Against People Reality

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A lawsuit filed against the National Security Agency by a coalition of 19 organizations illustrates how some Federal policies violate American rights, regardless of demographics, political affiliation or personal beliefs.

The group, represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, includes a variety of organizations focused on everything from human rights abuses, gun rights and Islamic relations to the Unitarian church and marijuana reform advocates.

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At the heart of the case, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, is the NSA’s bulk telephone records collection confirmed by last month’s publication of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

“The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation. Exposing this information — especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time — violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.”

Just one of a series of FISC rulings allowing similarly unConstitutional data collection by the NSA, the spy effort at the center of the lawsuit permitted the NSA’s wholesale collection of every call made, the location of the phone, the time of the call, the duration of the call and other “identifying information” for every phone and call for all customers of Verizon for a period of three months.

EFF officials argue that the NSA is working to build a database not as a deterrent to terrorist activity, but rather as a means by which to quash all manner of dissident activity.

“People who hold controversial views — whether it’s about gun ownership policies, drug legalization, or immigration — often must express views as a group in order to act and advocate effectively,” said Cohn. “But fear of individual exposure when participating in political debates over high-stakes issues can dissuade people from taking part. That’s why the Supreme Court ruled in 1958 that membership lists of groups have strong First Amendment protection. Telephone records, especially complete records collected over many years, are even more invasive than membership lists, since they show casual or repeated inquiries as well as full membership.”

Officials at the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, the main plaintiff in the case, say that the church has a long history of fighting Federal attacks on free speech and that the controversial position the church sometimes takes on issues puts its members at risk of government persecution if the spying continues.

“The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles has a proud history of working for justice and protecting people in jeopardy for expressing their political views,” said the Rev. Rick Hoyt. “In the 1950s, we resisted the McCarthy hysteria and supported blacklisted Hollywood writers and actors, and we fought California’s ‘loyalty oaths’ all the way to the Supreme Court. And in the 1980s, we gave sanctuary to refugees from civil wars in Central America. The principles of our faith often require our church to take bold stands on controversial issues. We joined this lawsuit to stop the illegal surveillance of our members and the people we serve. Our church members and our neighbors who come to us for help should not fear that their participation in the church might have consequences for themselves or their families. This spying makes people afraid to belong to our church community.”

The strange bedfellows joining forces in the complaint make certain that the American government and the Nation’s citizens are at odds.

Read the full complaint below:

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • txbadonetoo

    Why Government employees (Local, State, Federal) don’t understand that eventually these 4th Amendment abuses will be used against them is totally beyond me. At some point someone in power will decide they don’t like that person or the person in CA or that person who did this or that gal over there – and all of this data will be used to either try to threaten these ‘supporters of this abuse’ – or worst case if there is something questionable in their background – it will literally be used against them in a court of law.
    Why the people that support this abuse of the 4th Amendment think they are immune to it’s abuses is beyond me. They’re not. They will learn someday that they were used.

    • Wellarmed

      Agreed that they themselves in the belly of the beast have the most to fear. I am certain that the spying that is focused on them would dwarf what the American People have experienced.

      As I have said before, I believe that Obama would authorize the downing of a passenger aircraft (with all souls on board/collateral damage) if he knew or suspected Snowden to be on it. We must watch and see to the degree that the US government will go to silence this man.

      No one should make the mistake that they wish to capture him alive. Dead is their preferred route. Mr Snowden has thrown a massive monkey wrench into the NSA’s spokes, and he still has tools left in his bag (NSA blueprint) if it looks like they are to get back up and start riding again.

      It is good that he is not in a country that we have waged war on such as Pakistan or he would have been hellfired off the planet by now.

      The degree to which they take Snowden down will indicate the severity to which they will subject the employees at Fort Mead and Bluffdale. It will ultimately be the psychological component necessary to set the example for others at these government agencies who feel that their government has overstepped their bounds.

      I expect this law suit to go no further than Governor Ventura’s in relation to unconstitutional practices being implemented by the TSA. In other words I would not hold my breath for the verdict, as you already know what it will be.

  • Warrior

    Think about this for a moment. The US Department of Justice is a defendant in this lawsuit. Talk about “blurred lines”.

  • MARTIN

    A word on the telephone records–back in 1980 I worked as a temp at a huge telephone company, and I heard a guy at a table in the stacks with a dozen other employees around say, “Hey, folks, I have a live one. I’ll put it on speaker.” The phone call was from one woman to a woman friend, as she described in great detail last night’s date. And that was in 1980! Imagine what’s gone on since then! There is no privacy on the phone, whether or not it’s a cell phone or a land line.