As previously reported in March, the Wikimedia foundation filed a lawsuit against the NSA over its mass surveillance activities, which Wikimedia believes violates the First and Fourth Amendments. Previous lawsuits against the NSA have been thrown out by the courts due to a lack of standing. The current standing doctrine in the American court system only allows individuals and groups to bring a lawsuit against a government agency if they can demonstrate they have been harmed by the agency’s actions.
Due to the secretive nature of NSA program, it is difficult for any individual or group to prove that they had been specifically targeted by the NSA, which is required for them to have standing to sue. However, leaked documents showed that the NSA was specifically monitoring activity of users on certain sites, including Wikipedia. Wikimedia believed this gave them standing to sue the NSA because their site was specifically targeted.
Unfortunately, a judge has dismissed Wikimedia’s case. The judge concluded that key elements in the case against the NSA were based on speculation. Basing his decision on a similar Supreme Court case from 2013, the judge decided that the case could not go forward. “Plaintiffs provide no factual basis to support the allegation that the NSA is using its surveillance equipment at full throttle,” he wrote, according to the Baltimore Sun.
In addition to Wikimedia, the plaintiffs in the case included several other groups such as Amnesty International USA, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the Rutherford Institute. These groups believe that the NSA’s surveillance program makes it less likely that journalists, victims of human rights abusers, and other individuals will share sensitive information with them.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the plaintiffs in this case, is considering an appeal. Patrick Toomey, and ACLU lawyer, stated, “The decision turns a blind eye to the fact that the government is tapping into the Internet’s backbone to spy on millions of Americans. The dismissal of the lawsuit’s claims as ‘speculative’ is at odds with an overwhelming public record of warrantless surveillance.”
Will the targets of NSA surveillance ever get their day in court, or will Federal judges continue to evade the issue? Leave your comment below.