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ACLU Files Suit Against NSA, Patriot Act Phone Surveillance

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The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit charging that the NSA’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens’ data violates constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit charging that the NSA’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens’ data violates constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit charging that the NSA’s mass surveillance of U.S. citizens’ data violates constitutional rights of free speech and privacy.

The lawsuit comes just one day after the ACLU submitted a motion to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) seeking the release of secret court opinions on the Patriot Act’s alleged authorization for warrantless phone records.

The ACLU stated their own privacy concerns as an organization that “uses the phone a lot to talk about sensitive and confidential topics.”

Last week, The Guardian published an order issued by the FISC that compelled a Verizon subsidiary — Verizon Business Network Services (VBNS) — to hand over, on an “ongoing, daily basis,” details for every phone call placed on its network for a prospective three-month period.

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The collection of “metadata” reveals who people talk to, a call’s duration and even where the call is from, says a press release from the ACLU. The organization states that this information allows the government “to paint an alarmingly detailed picture of Americans’ private lives.”

The ACLU press release also states that the type of personal data being collected through Section 215 of the Patriot Act constitutes an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Lastly, the ACLU complaint charges that the executive branch’s use of Section 215 violates the plain language of the statute itself. The statute requires that records seized under its authority be “relevant” to an authorized foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigation.

The ACLU has issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request which seeks the government’s “secret interpretation of the law.”

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