(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
With the National Security Agency’s headquarters just outside the city at Fort Meade, Baltimore is the staging ground for a new legal battle over data surveillance.
A collection of nine nonprofits, advocacy groups and media organizations filed a lawsuit against the NSA in Baltimore Tuesday morning, contesting the intelligence agency’s data surveillance program.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, challenges the government’s “upstream” data collection, which monitors text-based communications sent outside the country. The upstream collection was among the many revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The data, which is collected from the “Internet backbone,” is thought to include emails and web browsing history. The NSA has consistently defended the program, saying it is legal under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and is necessary to protect national security.
The nine groups who filed the lawsuit contend that their communications have been monitored. According to the complaint, the agencies are all engaged in work that requires them to make sensitive communications outside the U.S. They allege their First and Fourth Amendment rights are violated by the program.
“This kind of dragnet surveillance constitutes a massive invasion of privacy, and it undermines the freedoms of expression and inquiry as well,” ACLU Staff Attorney Patrick Toomey said in a statement. “Ordinary Americans shouldn’t have to worry that the government is looking over their shoulders when they use the Internet.”
The lawsuit was brought by the following organizations: Wikimedia Foundation, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, PEN American Center, Global Fund for Women, The Nation Magazine, The Rutherford Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America.-30-
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