(NaturalNews) It may seem self-evident to most Americans, but now a noted legal organization has weighed in as well.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the overt spying on Americans' electronic communications - whether to simply collect "metadata" or to capture communications in their entirety - simply violates the Constitution.
In a newly released, highly detailed critique of the NSA's domestic spying that has since been filed in federal court, the ACLU says the program has had a chilling effect on the First Amendment and needs to be shut down immediately.
'Allows surveillance that is essentially indefinite'
In the filing, the ACLU warned that such long-term surveillance of Americans' communications "permits the government to assemble a richly detailed profile of every person living in the United States and to draw a comprehensive map of their associations with one another."
The court action is part of a lawsuit that the legal watchdog group filed in June, shortly after revelations about extensive NSA domestic spying were revealed in a series of media reports. Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, spoke at length about the spying with Greg Greenwald of Britain's Guardian newspaper. Snowden has since been granted temporary political asylum in Russia.
Per the Guardian:
Documents from Snowden revealed a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order directing Verizon to give the NSA all call detail records or "metadata" relating to every domestic and international call for three months, in a court direction that is renewed on an ongoing basis.
It "allows surveillance that is essentially indefinite", the motion says.
The filing is filled with quotes from academic, literary and additional sources in an attempt to illustrate how dangerous mass surveillance of the domestic population by government can be. The citations include writings by author George Orwell, whose fictional but visionary book, "1984," contained details of a "surveillance society" monitored by an omnipresent and all-powerful central government.
The ACLU filing also cites "The Lives of Others," an award-winning film about monitoring of citizens by the Stazi (secret police) in East Berlin by director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.
U.S. intelligence and government officials said, following disclosure of the NSA spying program, that the agency has not collected contents of citizens' communications and phone calls, only the "metadata," such as numbers dialed, the duration of the calls and what time they were made.
'Scooping an ocean to catch a fish'
The NSA and the Obama administration have said the program is part of the nation's overall counterterrorism strategy, but the ACLU says the agency has definitely overstepped its boundaries. The legal watchdog group quoted Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., a primary author of the USA Patriot Act, who has said that the law was never intended to give NSA blanket surveillance authority over U.S. citizens. He said the agency has used the law to "scoop up the entire ocean...to catch a fish."
"The chilling effect of the mass call-tracking program is apparent: any person hoping to approach plaintiffs with proof of official misconduct would be understandably wary knowing that the government receives, almost in real-time, a record of every telephone call," says the motion.
Included in ACLU's client list for the motion are potential whistleblowers who are seeking legal counsel and "government employees fearing reprisals for their political views."
The suit, filed June 11, names Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; NSA Director Keith Alexander; Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; Attorney General Eric Holder; and Robert Mueller, FBI director. The suit says that the agency's continuing tracking of Americans' phone calls and conversations goes well beyond the agency's statutory authority and is being conducted in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.