In a recent legal motion, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have filed a lawsuit against the U.S National Security Agency (NSA), U.S. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other government officials. The lawsuit filing alleges that the NSA has an electronic surveillance program that continues to illegally spy on U.S. residents.
A further in-depth look at the filing alleges that the NSA is conducting a mass surveillance on residents even when they are not communicating over-seas — which is what Bush and other officials claim this program solely focuses on — when communication is made with over-seas terrorism suspects.
The filing is a class-action suit complaint on behalf of all residential customers of AT&T’s telephone and Internet services. The lawsuit also alleges that the NSA has equipment installed at AT&T telecom facilities in San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, California and Bridgeton, Missouri that conducts surveillance on all activity.
Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician responsible for the leak of documents about the program back in 2006 described a program that goes far beyond the said scope. Apparently the program is doing more than just intercepting phone calls and e-mails exchanged between U.S. residents and terrorism suspects.
The White House and the NSA have not commented on the EFF lawsuit at this time. Bush administration officials have long defended the program, claiming it essential in the war against terrorism.
Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney at EFF states:
“Our case is about the interception of millions of ordinary Americans’ communications. If the government is proceeding under the purported authority of the July Legislation, then the administration has perpetrated an incredible fraud on both Congress and the American people in describing that law as limited to targeting people outside the United States.”
The surveillance program has been running since 2001 without court or congressional oversight until July, when Congress passed a bill giving limited oversight to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence surveillance court.
The lawsuit ultimately seeks a court order forcing the NSA to end the program and destroy any copies of U.S residents’ e-mail and phone calls that exist. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified monetary damages. The EFF also filed another suit back in 2006 against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, the surveillance bill passed by Congress in July requires that a court dismiss the more than 40 existing suits against telecom carriers if the carriers can show that they were told by the government officials that the orders were legal.