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You are here: Home FSF News FSF, other groups join EFF to sue NSA over unconstitutional surveillance

FSF, other groups join EFF to sue NSA over unconstitutional surveillance

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Jul 16, 2013 04:59 PM
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA -- Tuesday, July 16, 2013 -- The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today joined eighteen other activist and advocacy organizations in challenging the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance of telecommunications in the United States with a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The recently revealed surveillance program intercepts and catalogs the time, place, and participants of all calls on Verizon's phone network over a defined period. This includes calls made between advocacy organizations and their supporters.

The suit, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA, argues that such government surveillance of political organizations discourages citizens from contacting those organizations and therefore chills the free association and speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. The EFF will represent the politically diverse group of plaintiffs, which in addition to the FSF, includes Greenpeace, the California Guns Association, the National Organization for the Normalization of Marijuana Laws, and People for the American Way.

EFF's legal director, Cindy Cohn, wrote in a press release, "The First Amendment protects the freedom to associate and express political views as a group, but the NSA's mass, untargeted collection of Americans' phone records violates that right by giving the government a dramatically detailed picture into our associational ties. 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. 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."

FSF executive director John Sullivan added, "Free software activists often find themselves in difficult, controversial positions, and they most certainly need the ability to safely contact us without the government watching over their shoulders. The FSF is proud to join this diverse coalition of organizations in challenging the NSA's illegal surveillance."

In addition to legal action, awareness of overly broad surveillance has highlighted the need for technical solutions to hinder unlawful government spying.

Zak Rogoff, FSF campaigns manager, said, "Verizon's complicity in this program shows that the traditional phone system is not a safe place for communication. Fortunately, free software developers have been working on decentralized voice and video calling systems that can be much more difficult for mass surveillance systems to penetrate. We call on all software developers to contribute their talents to these projects, which are listed on our High Priority Projects List at Users should also try out these programs whenever possible and report their experiences."

For more information on the case, see the EFF's announcement and the full complaint brought before the court.

About the Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software -- particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants -- and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software, and its Web sites, located at and, are an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

John Sullivan
Executive Director
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942

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