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ACLU challenges NSA surveillance measures

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union [advocacy websites] filed suit [complaint, PDF] Tuesday against the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] challenging its recently revealed phone data collection. As a Verizon business network services customer, the ACLU argues [press release] that the program violates the rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy as protected by the First and Fourth Amendments. The complaint also charges that the program oversteps Congress' authority as outlined in the Patriot Act [text, PDF]. On Monday ACLU DC affiliate and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic [advocacy websites], filed a motion [text, PDF] with the secret surveillance court that issued the order allowing the data collection. They requested that the court provide a statutory basis [The Atlantic backgrounder, by Yale Clinic director] of its recent controversial decisions [JURIST report] to permit collection of civilians' personal data from private communication companies. Also Monday the first private suit challenging the surveillance was filed [text, PDF] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] by Larry Klayman [personal website], the former chairman of Judicial Watch [advocacy website], and a Philadelphia family who say the government has illegally spied on their private accounts.

Although the president and top official have defended the surveillance as a lawful counterterrorism measure, several US lawmakers have called [JURIST report] for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring. Lawmakers have also called for a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward [Guardian report] on Sunday as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal. Snowden is a 29-year-old former CIA technical worker that accessed the surveillance files when he was contracted as a civilian to work on projects for the NSA. He stated in an interview with The Guardian that he released the material because he believed the surveillance violated the right to privacy. Congressman Peter King (R-NY) [official website] called [press release] for the arrest of Snowden, who is now seeking asylum and is allegedly missing in Hong Kong.

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