ACLU sues for surveillance documents

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The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit June 3 in a New York federal district court to receive documents pertaining to the government's implementation of a 2008 law that allows electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens' communications with people abroad.

The law, the FISA Amendments Act, allows the attorney general and the director of national intelligence to jointly authorize the surveillance of communications originating from or terminating in the United States directed to a targeted person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States. The law does not require the government to apply for a warrant before a foreign intelligence surveillance court prior to starting the surveillance. Rather, it must obtain an acquisition order that reviews only the government's targeting and surveillance minimization procedures. The ACLU in the past has argued the law is unconstitutional.

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request in November 2009 for records related to the act, including reports on how the law is being used, how many Americans are affected by it and what safeguards are in place.

The government has not yet released any of the records under the request; the June 3 lawsuit requests a federal judge force the government's hand.

The ACLU filed the suit together with the New York Civil Liberties Union against the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency and the departments of Justice and Defense in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"Despite being in operation for nearly two years, the American public is largely in the dark about how the controversial FISA Amendments Act has been implemented in practice," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The public has a right to know how the government is using, and possibly abusing, an intrusive surveillance power that implicates the privacy and speech rights of all U.S. citizens and residents."

For more:
- read this ACLU press release
- see the lawsuit (.pdf)

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