A judge for the US District Court for the District of Utah [official site] on Tuesday refused [opinion, PDF] to dismiss a complaint against the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] over allegations of warrantless surveillance during the 2002 winter Olympic games. The case [materials] includes individuals who allege their communication devices were searched and seized by the NSA during the games. The plaintiffs further allege the NSA is currently storing a massive amount of data collected from them and the majority of individuals in the Salt Lake area. The NSA filed the motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs’ assertions are implausible and without factual support. However, Judge Robert Shelby rejected the motion:
The NSA essentially asks the court to pass on the plausibility of the allegations in the Amended Complaint and reject them as too unlikely to be believed. But at this motion to dismiss stage, the court may not perform such an analysis. Because the allegations in the Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint are not legal conclusions, bare assertions of the elements of standing, or sufficiently fantastic on their face as to defy reality, the law requires the court to accept them as true when evaluating the NSA’s Motion to Dismiss. Though these allegations will undoubtedly be tested as this case proceeds, the court concludes at this early stage that the Plaintiffs have in their Amended Complaint plausibly alleged injury and redressability as required for Article III standing and they overcome the NSA’s challenge to jurisdiction. The NSA’s Motion to Dismiss is DENIED as to the non-monetary claims against the NSA.
Shelby’s ruling allows the lawsuit to proceed.
The use of communication surveillance continues to be a security rights issue in many countries. The European Commission on Tuesday proposed rules [JURIST report] to bolster electronic communications as well as to “create new possibilities to process communication data and reinforce trust and security.” The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled [JURIST report] in December that “[g]eneral and indiscriminate retention” of e-mails and other electronic communications by governments is illegal, in a decision that many believe could create an opportunity for challenges to the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill. A federal judge in November rejected [JURIST report] the New York Police Department’s proposed settlement of a lawsuit accusing the department of improperly surveying the Muslim community.