Did you hear? The ACLU is suing the National Security Agency (NSA) for spying on…the ACLU.
That’s right. The ACLU is a Verizon Business customer, and its lawyers are pretty alarmed and ticked off to find that the government has been sweeping up the organization’s call and most likely internet records. As ACLU fellow Brett Max Kaufman put it in a blog,
As an organization that advocates for and litigates to defend the civil liberties of society’s most vulnerable, the staff at the ACLU naturally use the phone—a lot—to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers, and ACLU members. And since the ACLU is a VBNS customer, we were immediately confronted with the harmful impact that such broad surveillance would have on our legal and advocacy work. So we’re acting quickly to get into court to challenge the government’s abuse of Section 215.
Readers well-versed in these issues will immediately recognize that the FISC court order to Verizon enables the ACLU to push back against the government’s central claim when its surveillance programs have previously been challenged in court.
In a prior lawsuit against NSA warrantless spying, Amnesty v. Clapper, the ACLU represented human rights attorneys, researchers, journalists and others who suspected their private and extremely confidential communications were subject to warrantless NSA spying. Just this year, the Supreme Court agreed with the government’s objection to that lawsuit and tossed it out of court.
That objection was called ‘standing’. Essentially the government said, and the Court agreed, that the ACLU’s clients couldn’t even bring the lawsuit because they couldn’t prove they were being spied on. The government wouldn’t disclose whether they were in fact spied on because, naturally, that is a State Secret.
All of that is now irrelevant, because the ACLU has incontrovertible evidence to prove that records of its communications, along with those of every other Verizon Business customer, have been vacuumed up without individual suspicion or due process.