[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Monday announced that they had filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [DOJ backgrounder] seeking information on the extent of governmental use and interpretation of Executive Order 12,333 [federal backgrounder], which permits US government surveillance abroad to protect national security. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], named the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of State (DoS) as defendants. The ACLU alleged that the NSA and other agencies interpret EO 12,333 to permit the surveillance of communications by Americans abroad, and that the security agencies have collected data from millions of cell phones, including location data and contact lists from Americans’ phones. In a press release, the ACLU stated that the purpose of the lawsuit was to ensure oversight in the implementation of EO 12,333 to prevent abuse by the executive.
In recent months, information regarding the NSA’s surveillance program has been released and a number of lawsuits were filed challenging the reach of the agency’s authority. Earlier in December the US Director of National Intelligence released documents [JURIST report] showing the origins of NSA authority to collect bulk phone and internet records from US citizens, beginning in 2001. Also this month a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] the NSA’s program of collecting phone call data is likely unconstitutional. In October the ACLU filed [JURIST report] a separate lawsuit under the FOIA to compel the federal government to disclose its policy for notifying criminal defendants that they have been surveilled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [LII backgrounder]. Also in October the Washington Post published an extensive report which revealed the extent of domestic NSA surveillance [JURIST report].