In a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief filed today, the A.C.L.U. and N.Y.C.L.U. challenged the legality of the federal government’s “dragnet acquisition of Plaintiffs’ telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.” The complaint arises “[i]n response to information published by the media [that] the government has acknowledged that it is relying on Section 215 to collect ‘metadata’ about every phone call made or received by residents of the United States,” which the complaint characterizes as “akin to snatching every American’s address book—with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where.” The organizations sued in their capacity as customers (or former customers) of Verizon, alleging that their communications have been monitored pursuant to a program “that has been in place for seven years and that collects records of all telephone communications of every customer of a major phone company.”
The government’s surveillance of their communications (hereinafter “Mass Call Tracking”) allows the government to learn sensitive and privileged information about their work and clients, and it is likely to have a chilling effect on whistleblowers and others who would otherwise contact Plaintiffs for legal assistance. This surveillance is not authorized by Section 215 and violates the First and Fourth Amendments. Plaintiffs bring this suit to obtain a declaration that the Mass Call Tracking is unlawful; to enjoin the government from continuing the Mass Call Tracking under the VBNS order or any successor thereto; and to require the government to purge from its databases all of the call records related to Plaintiffs’ communications collected pursuant to the Mass Call Tracking.
For more, see this New York Times article.