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New class action filed over US warrantless surveillance program

[JURIST] The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed a class action lawsuit [complaint, PDF; EFF press release] seeking injunctive, declaratory and equitable relief from the National Security Agency (NSA) [agency website] warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive], which gave government agencies access to over 300 terabytes of data concerning communication sent and received by AT&T [corporate website] customers. Filed on behalf of those customers, the suit names as defendants the US government, the NSA, President George W. Bush [official profile], Vice President Dick Cheney [official profile], and several other officials. EFF alleges violations of the First and Fourth Amendments, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive], and federal electronic surveillance law. The complaint also argues that the surveillance program violated the Federal Administrative Procedure Act [text] because it exceeded Congressionally-mandated limitations established by FISA, and alleges that it violates the Constitutional separation of powers principle

because it was authorized by the Executive in excess of the Executive’s authority under Article II of the United States Constitution ... and exceeds the statutory limits imposed on the Executive by Congress.
The New York Times has more.

The lawsuit filed Thursday follows an earlier class-action lawsuit [JURIST report] filed by EFF against AT&T in January 2006 over the company's participation in the warrantless surveillance program. The most recent lawsuit is aimed at the US government, reflecting the July amendment to FISA which granted retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies participating in the surveillance program. The amendment was signed into law [White House press release] by President Bush on July 10, after the US Senate voted 69-28 [roll call; JURIST report] to approve the amendment. Earlier that day, the Senate rejected three proposed amendments [WH fact sheet] to the bill that would have limited the immunity. In June, the US House of Representatives passed [roll call] HR 6304, amending FISA and including the granting of retroactive immunity. The bill also grants the FISA court [governing provisions] authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, would prohibit the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and orders the Department of Justice [official website] and other agencies to issue a report on the country's use of wiretapping orders.

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