A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Tuesday rejected a motion to dismiss [order, PDF] a lawsuit alleging that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] illegally surveilled "millions of ordinary Americans" in the wake of 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder]. In 2008 the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) [advocacy website] filed a putative class action [complaint, PDF] on behalf of phone and Internet users alleging the NSA used a program of "dragnet surveillance" to "indiscriminately intercept" the communications records of millions of US citizens without a warrant. The Obama administration argued the case must be dismissed on grounds that EFF's claims risked disclosure of information protected by the "state secrets" privilege [CCR backgrounder]. Judge Jeffrey White disagreed, finding that the government's public statements with respect to the surveillance program belied its argument that certain materials must be protected. However, the judge ordered the NSA to provide further clarification [CNET report] with respect to why the "recent disclosure of the government's continuing surveillance activities" could impact national security in the future.
The revelations surrounding the NSA's surveillance programs have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. In July the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed an emergency petition [JURIST report] with the US Supreme Court challenging the NSA's telephone record surveillance program. In June the Guardian reported [JURIST report] that the NSA is collecting call data from Verizon customers under a top secret court order. Also in June Several US lawmakers called [JURIST report] for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of recent reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring and a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal. In the same time frame the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit [JURIST report] against the NSA challenging its recently revealed phone data collection. In addition the US government charged [JURIST report] former government contractor Edward Snowden with espionage for leaking top secret documents, according to a sealed criminal complaint filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.