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The ACLU Is Suing The NSA

The advocacy organization — and Verizon customer — is fighting the metadata-collecting program uncovered last week in the Guardian.

Last updated on June 11, 2013, at 3:56 p.m. ET

Posted on June 11, 2013, at 3:56 p.m. ET

Obama in the Oval Office on June 11.
Larry Downing / Reuters

Obama in the Oval Office on June 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. intelligence community for secretly collecting domestic phone call logs. The named defendants include Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

As a customer of Verizon, the ACLU is arguing that it was directly affected by the NSA's surveillance — something it's often not able to do in its lawsuits.

From The New York Times:

The A.C.L.U. has frequently assisted other plaintiffs in challenges against national security policies, but the government has generally persuaded courts to dismiss such lawsuits without any ruling on the legal merits after arguing that litigation over any classified program would reveal state secrets or that the plaintiffs could not prove they were personally affected and so lacked standing to sue.

This case may be different. The government has now declassified the existence of the program on domestic call record "metadata." And the A.C.L.U. itself is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services — the subsidiary of Verizon Communications that was the recipient of a secret court order for all its domestic calling records — which it says gives it direct standing to bring the lawsuit.

In a statement, the organization reiterated how the program — exposed to the Guardian by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — violated its First and Fourth Amendment rights:

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.

As part of the lawsuit, the ACLU wants the phone log records already collected to be purged.

The full complaint: