The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho announced today in a joint press release that they will join Anna Smith's legal team in her challenge of the government's bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans.
Smith filed her lawsuit against President Barack Obama and several U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after the government confirmed data leaked by Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Smith, a Verizon (one of the companies that was ordered to disclose records to the NSA ) wireless customer, argues in her lawsuit that 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 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."
While Smith's case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill, he also 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.
"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."