According to the lawsuit, the NSA secretly violated the First and Fourth Amendments by creating a program called Upstream, which intercepts both foreign and domestic telephone and Internet traffic along major internet cables. Although whistleblower Edward Snowden publicly disclosed the existence of the program in 2013 and the government has acknowledged its existence, Judge Thomas Selby “T.S.” Ellis III dismissed the suit because he admittedly did not have enough information to confirm their allegations.
“The decision turns a blind eye to the fact that the government is tapping into the Internet’s backbone to spy on millions of Americans,” ACLU lawyer Patrick Toomey said in a statement. “The dismissal of the lawsuit’s claims as ‘speculative’ is at odds with an overwhelming public record of warrantless surveillance.”
By playing the national security card, the NSA proved once again that it is currently immune to public scrutiny and accountability. If the ruling stands, the ACLU believes it will be impossible to challenge the NSA in civil court. Although Judge T.S. Ellis III said the suit relied on “the subjective fear of surveillance,” the ACLU plans to file an appeal.