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Court Sides With The NSA In People Vs Privacy Case

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

In a reversal for the privacy watchdog Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a federal judge has ruled in the favor of the US government in the high profile Jewel v. NSA case. While delivering the judgment in Oakland, California; District Judge Jeffrey White said the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the NSA surveillance was violating their fourth amendment rights. The verdict is indeed a setback for EFF and other civil liberty groups who were hoping to challenge the surveillance practices of the US government in the court of law.

Jewel v. NSA is a class action lawsuit filed by EFF against the NSA and several high ranking officials of the US government. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Carolyn Jewel and many other customers of AT&T in 2008. The lawsuit charged NSA with conducting illegal and unconstitutional dragnet communications surveillance and violating the fourth amendment rights of the American citizens. The purpose of the lawsuit was to bring an end to the illegal and unconstitutional surveillance and hold the senior officials accountable for their actions.

While delivering his verdict, Judge White said that the plaintiffs had not presented sufficient evidence that online communications were under “dragnet seizure and search program” at the behest of the government and as such, it would be improper to say that the data collection program was violating the Fourth Amendment rights of the plaintiffs. While dismissing the arguments challenging the constitutionality of the Upstream data collection program, he said that answering them would require disclosure of state secrets that could compromise national security.

During the hearing, Judge White also mentioned that the Court is frustrated about deciding the current motions without making a full disclosure to the public regarding its actions and analysis. He further added that the Court believes that its judgment was legally and factually correct while also taking care of national security interests.

As expected, EFF is disappointed with the judgment and has published a lengthy response to the verdict on its website. The watchdog said that the judge didn’t say that the surveillance conducted by the NSA was legal; he only said that preservation of “state secrets” is preventing him from declaring the data collection program as unconstitutional. EFF further added that it is nothing but a travesty of justice that their clients were denied their rights over a ‘secret’ program that has been dominating headlines for several years.

In its response, EFF also vowed to carry on its fight against the unlawful and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens by the government. It also said that the court’s verdict was only regarding upstream online surveillance and it did not cover collection of phone records and other surveillance programs that also needed attention. The watchdog further added that Americans are aware that their communications are being gathered via several surveillance programs and termed the government’s bid to block a judicial review over its mass surveillance programs under the pretext of secrecy as both outrageous and disappointing. EFF said that it intends to carry on the fight against the government over the unresolved issues related to the case.

May 9, 2015

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