First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles and the Calguns Foundation join EFF and others in fight against snoops
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has found some strange bedfellows in its fight against surveillance, announcing it has joined forces with Unitarian church groups and gun ownership advocates to sue the National Security Agency (NSA) over widespread snooping.
The nineteen-strong coalition has claimed the NSA violated their First Amendment right of association by illegally collecting their call records, as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Documents released last month showed Verizon was legally required to hand over communications records of all customers to US intelligence services. It is believed orders stem back to 2006.
Amongst the plaintiffs being represented by the EFF in the case are the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles and gun rights group the Calguns Foundation. Greenpeace and Human Rights Watch are also taking the fight to the NSA.
EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said the First Amendment protects people’s freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA’s massive surveillance operation violated that right by giving the government rafts of information on who was working with whom.
She said fear of individual exposure can dissuade people from participating in political debate
“Who we call, how often we call them, and how long we speak shows the government what groups we belong to or associate with, which political issues concern us, and our religious affiliation,” Cohn added.
“Exposing this information – especially in a massive, untargeted way over a long period of time – violates the Constitution and the basic First Amendment tests that have been in place for over 50 years.”
Reverend Rick Hoyt, of the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, added: “Our church members and our neighbors who come to us for help should not fear that their participation in the church might have consequences for themselves or their families.
“This spying makes people afraid to belong to our church community.”