Federal judge dismisses challenge to NSA warrantless surveillance

Federal judge dismisses challenge to NSA warrantless surveillance

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Tuesday granted [order, PDF] a cross-motion for summary judgment by the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] in a lawsuit challenging the agency’s warrantless interception of Internet communications. The plaintiffs, AT&T customers, claimed that the NSA received copies of their Internet communications as part of a mass surveillance system, which they filtered using special terms to detect potential terrorist-related intelligence information. District Judge Jeffrey White ruled [Reuters report] that the plaintiffs had failed to present enough evidence about the NSA’s program to move forward with their claim and that they were further blocked by the risk of disclosing state secrets. White’s ruling does not cover telephone records or other mass surveillance, which are also included in the suit.

The focus on government surveillance policies comes largely as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive], who allegedly leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. One of the first challenges to NSA activities came in June 2013, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed suit [JURIST report] in federal court just days after Snowden claimed responsibility for the leaks. As the outcry over the revelations began to expand in scope and severity, several other human rights groups decided to sue as well. The following month both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center [advocacy websites] filed suit alleging [JURIST report] similar claims on the behalf of a coalition of 19 separate organizations. Earlier this month the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled [JURIST report] that the UK’s mass surveillance of citizens’ Internet use violates human rights law. In July civil liberties groups sued [JURIST report] the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service [official website] known as MI6, alleging that the agency accesses data from undersea cables in violation of the rights to private life and freedom of expression.