Categories: Security

Wikimedia Foundation Sues NSA Over Internet Surveillance

The Wikimedia Foundation has said it is to sue the US’ National Security Administration (NSA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) over the NSA’s mass Internet surveillance programme, arguing it infringes upon the US Constitution’s protection of free speech and citing the programme’s allegedly “chilling effect” upon Wikipedia.

A similar lawsuit, filed by Amnesty International USA against director of national intelligence James Clapper, was dismissed from the US Supreme Court in 2013 over what it called Amnesty’s inability to prove it suffered harm as a result of the surveillance activities cited in the lawsuit. Wikimedia said it has a better chance of success, because classified NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden included references indicating that Wikipedia and its users were specifically targeted.

‘End mass surveillance’

“Our aim in filing this suit is to end this mass surveillance programme in order to protect the rights of our users around the world,” the organisation stated. “If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it.”

The lawsuit is due to be filed later on Tuesday, with eight other organisations backing it, and legal representation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The foundation said it was “alarmed” by the documents disclosed by Snowden in 2013, and began discussions with the ACLU last year.

The case is to specifically challenge the NSA’s collection of data from the Internet’s backbone to capture communications, which Wikimedia said may include communications by its users and staff.

“We believe that the NSA’s current practices far exceed the already broad authority granted by the US Congress through the FAA,” Wikimedia stated, adding it believes the practices violate the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and association, and Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.

‘Chilling effect’

In an opinion piece in Tuesday’s New York Times, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov said people in countries undergoing political turmoil might think twice about contributing politically sensitive writings to Wikipedia if they knew their communications were being watched by the NSA and that they could even be personally identified in public as a result.

Joining Wikimedia as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA, Pen American Centre, Global Fund for Women, The Nation Magazine, The Rutherford Institute, and Washington Office on Latin America.

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Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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  • The Two Hands

    Also visible in the Animal kingdom, the brutal Strength is no better or worse than the deadly Deception.

    Two are the Hands to cross and shape our World
    to mold It like a vase of clay and put their own seal
    the scepter of command, illusion of reward
    to drive at will one Destiny with no steering wheel.

    In the last World war, the Hand of Strength and Hand of Deception have crossed once again.
    Strength personified by the Axis and Deception by the Allies.
    Gestapo versus CIA.
    One long scar still bleeds over this Planet.
    With Strength defeated, the winners of the War have extended their cunning Hand, robbed the whole World and transformed each town in a place where Deception is the only reality.
    Two new blocks were soon formed right after the War.
    UK and USA celebrated Capitalism while Russia instead was infatuated with Communism.
    The Two Hands had only changed gloves.

    In the Animal World in which we live, those Two Hands belong today to the CIA which is a virtual State independent from any government and precursor of a New World Order.
    There should be no doubt in regard to whom are masters of Strength and Deception and who is the Beast at the top of this Animal kingdom.
    Although a New World Order will also be the natural end game only for a Humankind that will continue on the same footsteps and go on to believe at the same values.
    The alternative is a drastic change and repudiation of the single Animal Law to turn the page in the book of Destiny.

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