The EFF provided evidence in two of its cases that it was not just AT&T that helped the NSA collect phone records for millions of Americans, but also Verizon Wireless and Sprint. This information was not previously given by the government, which claimed that it was a state secret.
Despite all the revelations in the media from Snowden’s documents and other sources that the U.S. government is collecting citizens’ information, the administration is still claiming that either individuals or organizations such as the EFF have “no standing” to sue because they can’t prove that they were spied upon.
Of course, this kind of argument quickly turns into circular logic, because such evidence is often secret and can’t be easily given away via FOIA requests either (the released documents are often heavily redacted to the point of being useless). Therefore, you can’t prove you were spied upon because that information is typically classified.
Still, this time the EFF managed to get some evidence that AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint were involved in helping NSA with the mass collection of phone records, from filings made to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that were recently made public.
The EFF also got a letter sent from the DoJ to the FISC that was released in a FOIA lawsuit started by the New York Times, where the names “AT&T,” “Verizon,” “Verizon Wireless,” and “Sprint” are mentioned in regards to phone records collection. From a previously-released document by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the EFF learned that the letter is indeed about the mass collection of phone records.
The U.S. government’s tactics to either convince the judges to reject mass spying cases or at least delay them have worked rather well so far, but the EFF hopes this new evidence will put the focus back on the government’s violations of the First Amendment’s right of association and the Fourth Amendment’s protection against both unreasonable searches and seizures.
The EFF is now using this evidence in two of its cases: Smith vs. Obama, where both the EFF and ACLU are providing the legal aid to Anna Smith, who is suing the U.S. government over its bulk collection of telephone records, and First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA where 22 organizations are suing the NSA for their First Amendment right of association.