CAIR Joining Lawsuit Over NSA Phone Spying

NSA-lawsuit-releaseSuit says warrantless surveillance program has 'chilling effect' on First Amendment right of association

(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, 7/16/13) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization, announced it is joining other advocacy groups in a lawsuit against the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless surveillance program that collects, stores, searches, and analyzes the phone records of millions of innocent Americans.

SEE: NSA Collects Phone Records of Millions of Verizon Customers (Guardian)

The suit is being filed Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of 18 organizations from across the political spectrum based on the First Amendment right of association. The right of association is a well-established doctrine that prevents the government from "interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibit the petition for a governmental redress of grievances."

The suit outlines how the wholesale collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans, and thereby the collection of their associations, is massively overbroad and has a "chilling effect" on basic constitutional rights.

SEE: First Unitarian v. NSA

"Massive warrantless surveillance of law-abiding citizens has a profoundly negative impact on the constitutionally-protected right of association utilized by all those who seek to engage in public advocacy," said Zahra Billoo, executive director of CAIR's San Francisco Bay Area chapter (CAIR-SFBA). "The American Muslim community has complained of such wholesale surveillance for more than a decade - with FBI visits, mosque surveillance and agent provocateurs at the forefront of those complaints. CAIR welcomes the opportunity to challenge NSA spying alongside a group of organizations with diverse viewpoints. Warrantless spying by the NSA and other federal agencies impacts all Americans."

The plaintiffs in the case are all associations that utilize telephones in exercising the First Amendment right to bring people together to work to change policy or laws. The plaintiffs include:

  • First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee
  • California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations National, California, and Ohio
  • Franklin Armory
  • Free Press
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Greenpeace, Inc.
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Media Alliance
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, California Chapter
  • Open Technology Institute
  • People for the American Way
  • Public Knowledge
  • Students for a Sensible Drug Policy
  • TechFreedom
  • The Calguns Foundation 
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Commission

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR-SFBA Executive Director Zahra Billoo, 626.252.0885, [email protected];  CAIR Sacramento Valley Executive Director Basim Elkarra, 916.446.6269, [email protected]; CAIR-LA Communications Coordinator Yasmin Nouh, 714.776.1847, [email protected]; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202.744.7726, [email protected]; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, 202-341-4171, [email protected]; CAIR-Cleveland Executive Director Julia Shearson, 216-830-2247, [email protected]; CAIR-Columbus Staff Attorney Romin Iqbal, 614-451-3232, [email protected]