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Can You Sue NSA for Unlawfully Recording Your Calls-Accessing Private Data? Understanding Your Rights

Can You Sue NSA for Unlawfully Recording Your Calls-Accessing Private Data? Understanding Your Rights

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, “Can I sue the National Security Agency (NSA) for recording my telephone data and spying on my calls?” – you’re certainly not alone. In this article, we’re going to explore this intricate issue, shedding some light on rogue NSA agents who have unlawfully accessed personal data on phones without a warrant, the legalities of the NSA surveillance program, storing smartphone data, and the reasons underlying these seemingly controversial procedures. 

“At the heart of this matter lie fundamental questions about privacy, the limits of governmental power, and the means we’re willing to accept in the pursuit of national security.” A while back, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit made it clear that the secret warrantless telephone surveillance, which covertly recorded millions of Americans’ phone records, transgressed the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

This NSA spying action could even be seen as a violation of the constitution. In June 2013, after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the presence of a certain program, the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union promptly lodged the pertinent lawsuit. Seven years after the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the mass surveillance of Americans’ telephone records, an appeals court has found the program was unlawful – and that the US intelligence leaders who publicly defended it were not telling the truth. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is known to be a client of Verizon Business Network Services.

It came to light through The Guardian that this very firm had been given a clandestine directive by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor calls of the ACLU. This directive obliged Verizon to continuously and on a daily basis, hand over detailed records of phone calls such as distinction of outgoing and incoming calls, and their respective timings. Snowden is currently evading US espionage charges in Russia, publicized this domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Agency (NSA) back in 2013. He viewed that recent ruling as affirming the correctness of his decision to reveal the NSA’s covert activities and illegal surveillance to the public.

In the case known as ACLU v. Clapper, the government had contended that the court shouldn’t even assess the legality of the program in question. Their stance was that the ACLU didn’t have the necessary “standing” to dispute the surveillance. Furthermore, they asserted that Congress had “precluded” any judicial review unless it was by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This particular court convenes behind closed doors, infrequently publicizes its decisions, and generally only allows the government to present arguments. However, in a significant decision, these arguments were not accepted. 

  • In 2013, it was revealed that the NSA collects almost 200 million text messages per day globally
  • In 2015, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records was illegal
  • In 2016, it was reported that the NSA collected over 151 million phone records, despite the USA Freedom Act
  • A 2017 report indicated that the NSA tripled its collection of American phone records in just one year
  • In 2018, the NSA deleted more than 685 million call records obtained since 2015 due to ‘technical irregularities’
  • In 2019, a former NSA contractor was sentenced to prison for stealing more than 50 terabytes of highly sensitive government data over 20 years
  • On September 2, 2020, the bulk data collection program was officially terminated. This conclusion was enabled by the passing of the USA Freedom Act in 2015, which demanded NSA law enforcement agents cease all data hoarding activities of innocent Americans later that year.

Let’s delve into this multifaceted issue: 

  • Examining real-life examples of rogue NSA agents illegally accessing private phone data
  • Discussing why the NSA isn’t required to obtain a warrant to secretly store your smartphone data

Together, we’ll attempt to unravel the complex world of national security provisions and their impacts on individual privacy rights. Stay tuned as we navigate these murky, often misunderstood waters. 

Instances of NSA Overreach? 

Is it possible that your personal, private information has been inappropriately accessed by NSA agents? In the pursuit of promoting national security, a few instances of overreach have indeed come to light. Some cases have stirred up public outcry and debates about privacy, sparking discussion about the balance between national security and citizens’ rights. 

One standout example involves allegations that rogue NSA employees were openly using their position to spy on people’s sexual activities and other private information. It may seem more like the plot of a dystopian novel, yet various media outlets have reported on what’s been colloquially termed as ‘LOVEINT.’ This term describes a situation where NSA officers misuse surveillance tools to spy on their love interests and other people they know personally. 

Why Doesn’t the NSA Need a Warrant? 

Now, let’s switch gears slightly and discuss why the NSA isn’t routinely required to get a warrant to store your smartphone data secretly. This predicament primarily hinges upon the interpretation of certain key legal provisions. According to the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a warrant is required for any search or seizure to be deemed “reasonable.” However, the amendment is generally interpreted as safeguarding places where a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Therefore, much of this issue boils down to whether metadata—information about when, where, and to whom a call is made—constitutes information for which a person reasonably expects privacy. 

Famously, the NSA’s bulk metadata program, revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, was justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. This legislation holds that the government can obtain any tangible things (including books, records, papers, documents, and other items) it deems relevant to an investigation to protect against international terrorism. 

In essence, legislation and its interpretation continue to shape the landscape in which the NSA and similar bodies operate. Legislative complexity and technological evolution further muddy these waters, making it a tough field to negotiate for those seeking clarity on their rights. 

Can You Sue the NSA? 

Gauging from the above, you might wonder if it’s possible to sue the NSA for recording your telephone data and spying on your calls. The answer to this is somewhat challenging to pin down, as the cases that have attempted to do so often face an uphill battle. 

Legal redress for violations against privacy rights exists in theory. However, the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act has limited citizens from successfully suing the NSA. Notably, because suing would require classified information, in many cases, these lawsuits are dismissed on the grounds of state secrets privilege — an evidentiary rule created by U.S. legal precedent. Despite how a court rules, many people fear leftists inside our government like Liz Lerner, Lisa Paige, or Peter Strzok could rise again, or maybe already are undermining Americans with secret surveillance.

To conclude, striving for the perfect balance between individual privacy and national security has always been a contested feat. As technology evolves and more of our lives are digitized, these debates are set to continue. Understanding our rights, and the challenges inherent in maintaining and advocating for those rights, is the first step in navigating this brave new world. However, the fact our own government lied and concealed that they were spying on ordinary Americans until a whistleblower revealed it, is a slap in the face for constitutionalists like me. Do you trust the government still after reading this? Do you think they are still illegally recording the phone data of innocent Americans?

Citations:

Judge Rules You Can’t Sue the NSA for Secretly Spying