ACLU National and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday afternoon to challenge the constitutionality of a recently revealed government spying program. Citing the Patriot Act, the NSA had secretly ordered Verizon Business Network Services (VBNS) to submit records of metadata for all domestic phone calls made to and from its customers. VBNS serves millions of American businesses, including the ACLU.

This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director. “It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy.

The lawsuit argues that the government’s blanket seizure of and ability to search the ACLU’s phone records compromises sensitive information about its work, undermining the organization’s ability to engage in legitimate communications with clients, journalists, advocacy partners, and others.

The crux of the government’s justification for the program is the chilling logic that it can collect everyone’s data now and ask questions later,” said Alex Abdo, a staff attorney for the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The Constitution does not permit the suspicionless surveillance of every person in the country.”

Delaware's very own Joe Biden criticized government access to metadata as "very, very intrusive" when, back in 2006, it was revealed that the Bush administration had participated in a similar program. So why, now, is the Obama administration arguing that collection of that same data is not an intrusion on the privacy of millions of Americans, so long as no one actually looks at it?


The NSA's data collection program violates your constitutional rights to privacy, association, and free speech. Help protect your right to privacy! Join the over 32,000 people who have already signed the petition to stop massive government spying.

For more information about the NSA's history of spying on Americans, check out this timeline created by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.