EFF shows how "metadata" collection is bad for freedom of association

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed 22 declarations in First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA. The briefs are from a wide variety of groups — environmentalists, gun-rights activists, religious groups, human-rights workers, drug-policy advocates — who all have one thing in common: "hey each depend on the First Amendment's guarantee of free association. EFF argues that if the government vacuums up the records of every phone call—who made the call, who received the call, when and how long the parties spoke—then people will be afraid to join or engage with organizations that may have dissenting views on political issues of the day."

"The plaintiffs, like countless other associations across the country, have suffered real and concrete harm because they have lost the ability to assure their constituents that the fact of their telephone communications between them will be kept confidential from the federal government," EFF Senior Staff Attorney David Greene said. "This has caused constituents to reduce their calling. This is exactly the type of chilling effect on the freedom of association that the First Amendment forbids."

In Wednesday's motion, EFF asks the US District Court for the Northern District of California to review the undisputed evidence at hand and rule that the NSA's "Associational Tracking Program" is not only unconstitutional, but not authorized under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT ACT, the law the government has so far used to justify its surveillance.

EFF Files 22 Firsthand Accounts of How NSA Surveillance Chilled the Right to Association