A federal judge has dismissed Jewel v. NSA, a case from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of AT&T customers challenging the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls and emails.
“We’re deeply disappointed in the judge’s ruling,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “This ruling robs innocent telecom customers of their privacy rights without due process of law. Setting limits on Executive power is one of the most important elements of America’s system of government, and judicial oversight is a critical part of that.”
In the ruling, issued late Thursday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker held that the privacy harm to millions of Americans from the illegal spying dragnet was not a “particularized injury” but instead a “generalized grievance” because almost everyone in the United States has a phone and Internet service.
“The alarming upshot of the court’s decision is that so long as the government spies on all Americans, the courts have no power to review or halt such mass surveillance even when it is flatly illegal and unconstitutional,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “With new revelations of illegal spying being reported practically every other week — just this week, we learned that the FBI has been unlawfully obtaining Americans’ phone records using Post-It notes rather than proper legal process — the need for judicial oversight when it comes to government surveillance has never been clearer.”
Jewel v. NSA is aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. That same evidence is central to Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit that’s currently under appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
For the judge’s full order:
For more on warrantless wiretapping and NSA spying: