The ACLU filed suit against the government today opening up a third front on their war against Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The suit comes in the wake of last weeks revelations of massive governmental "dragnet" surveillance of phone and internet usage. Here is what you need to know:
1. The Lawsuit Attacks section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Section 215 allows the government to procure any information it wants if it pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. The section says that the government:
may make an application for an order requiring the production of any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) for an investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities, provided that such investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution
You can read the complete text of 215 here.
The New York Times speculates that the suit could end up before the Supreme Court in order to decide the constitutionality of some Patriot Act sections.
2. The Objective is to End the Mass Surveillance Methods Exposed
In the ACLU official complaint, some of the objectives for the suit are listed as,
-Declare that the Mass Call Tracking violates 50 U.S.C. § 1861 and 5 U.S.C. § 706
-Declare that the Mass Call Tracking violates the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution
-Permanently enjoin Defendants from continuing the Mass Call Tracking under the VBNS order or any successor thereto
-Order Defendants to purge from their possession all of the call records of Plaintiffs’ communications in their possession collected pursuant to the Mass Call Tracking
To sum it up, the ACLU is attempting to force a judge to call sections of the Patriot Act unconstitutional, to stop massive dragnet surveillance of American citizens, and to force the government to destroy all of the information already gathered by this process.
You can read the complete document here:
3. The Case is Being Levied Against Five Specific Men
According to the official complain posted above, the law suit identifies the defendants specifically as:
-James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence
-Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency
-Charles Hagel, Secretary of Defense
-Eric Holder, Attorney General
-Robert Mueller III, Director of the FBI
The ACLU identifies all of these five men as being integral to the creation and maintenance of the massive systems of domestic surveillance in question.
4. This is the ACLU's Third Attack on Section 215
According to the ACLU this lawsuit marks the third attack on section 215 of the Patriot act. They are challenging it in two different courts on the basis that the government have not declassified their interpretation of section 215, and now they are challenging it on a constitutional basis.
5. They Have Also Sued the Obama Administration Over the Use of Drones
In early 2012, the ACLU announced they would be suing Obama over the drone strikes that resulted in the killing of American citizens overseas.