September 6th, 2013

NRA Joins Lawsuit Against Federal Phone Surveillance Programs

NSA phone surveillance eff.orgThe NRA has joined in an ACLU lawsuit challenging the Federal government’s vast domestic telephone surveillance program. Currently the National Security Agency (NSA) captures billions of telephone call records in a vast data-mining operation. As those records could reveal every person who makes a call to the NRA, shooting club, or gun store, the NRA claims the NSA call-tracking program could be used to create a de facto national gun registry. The NSA and/or other government agencies could easily create a list to identify and locate gun owners: “The government could simply demand the periodic submission of all firearms dealers’ transaction records, then centralize them in a database indexed by the buyers’ names for later searching.”

The NRA argued: “It would be absurd to think that the Congress would adopt and maintain a web of statutes intended to protect against the creation of a national gun registry, while simultaneously authorizing the FBI and the NSA to gather records that could effectively create just such a registry”.

The NRA claims the Federal Government’s telephone surveillance programs is unconstitutional: “The mass surveillance program threatens the First Amendment rights of the NRA and its members. The mass surveillance program could allow identification of NRA members, supporters, potential members, and other persons with whom the NRA communicates, potentially chilling their willingness to communicate with the NRA.”

The ACLU’s lawsuit, ACLU vs. Clapper, seeks an injunction to halt the NSA’s phone-surveillance program and also force the Federal Government to expunge all of its phone call records. Named defendants in the ACLU lawsuit the National Security Agency, the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice. The ACLU has welcomed the NRA’s participation in the lawsuit: “The range of voices joining the protest against mass government surveillance — not to mention the bipartisan storm that has swept Congress since the recent NSA disclosures — is a real testament to the fact that the government’s dragnet surveillance practices are offensive to Americans from across the political spectrum”.

Along with the NRA, other organizations have joined in the ACLU lawsuit against the NSA’s surveillance programs. These include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and several news organizations including Fox, National Public Radio, Bloomberg News and The New Yorker. In fact even Republican Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin filed supporting briefs. Sensenbrenner is a co-author of the 2001 Patriot Act, which the NSA has cited as authority for its data-gathering program. Sensenbrenner believes that NSA’s vast phone-logging operations have gone well beyond anything contemplated by Congress in passing the Patriot Act.

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