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Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection Of Americans' Telephone Records

Human Rights Watch, a nonpartisan organization that fights human rights abuses across the globe, filed suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration late Tuesday for illegally collecting records of its telephone calls to certain foreign countries as part of yet another government bulk surveillance program. The group is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has launched a series of legal challenges against unconstitutional government surveillance.

"The DEA's program of untargeted and suspicionless surveillance of Americans' international telephone call records - information about the numbers people call, and the time, date, and duration of those calls - affects millions of innocent people, yet the DEA operated the program in secret for years,'' said EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo.

"Both the First and Fourth Amendment protect Americans from this kind of overreaching surveillance. This lawsuit aims to vindicate HRW's rights, and the rights of all Americans, to make calls overseas without being subject to government surveillance."

The DEA disclosed the existence of its surveillance for the first time in January, after a federal judge ordered the government to reveal more information about the program. The agency made the disclosure in a criminal case against a man accused of violating export restrictions on goods to Iran. In a declaration filed in the case, a DEA agent described the then-secret program of collecting telephone records of calls made from the U.S. to "designated foreign countries'' that are connected with international drug trafficking. The declaration revealed that DEA relied on administrative subpoenas to amass the database of Americans' call records. The DEA obtained the records without judicial oversight or approval.

News reports say the program, run by the DEA's special operations division, began its bulk collection in the 1990s, using the collected records to create a database for domestic criminal probes. The information was shared with other law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for reasons unrelated to drug trafficking, media reports said. Although the DEA has indicated the program was "suspended" in 2013, this suit seeks to ensure the program is permanently terminated, that it cannot restart, and that all of HRW's illegally collected records have been purged from all government systems.

Human Rights Watch and its staff work regularly on issues in countries linked to drug trafficking, communicating with victims or witnesses to human rights abuses.

"Human Rights Watch often works with people in dire circumstances around the world. Our sources are sometimes in life or death situations, and speaking out can make them a target," said Dinah PoKempner, general counsel of Human Rights Watch. "Who we communicate with and when we communicate with them is often extraordinarily sensitive - and it's information that we would never turn over to the government lightly."

"The NSA isn't the only federal agency collecting Americans' call records in bulk," said EFF staff attorney Mark Rumold. "The DEA's program is yet another example of federal agencies overreaching their surveillance authority in secret. We are asking the court to require the government to destroy the records it illegally collected no matter where they are held, and to declare - once and for all - that bulk collection of Americans' records is unconstitutional.''

EFF also represents plaintiffs in First Unitarian v. NSA, a case filed in 2013; Jewel v. NSA, a class action case filed in 2008; and Smith v. Obama, a lawsuit from an Idaho emergency neonatal nurse. Those lawsuits challenge NSA programs of dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans.

Here's the full complaint in Human Rights Watch v DEA.

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See also: U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions Of Calls For Decades.

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Previously:
* Amnesty International Joins ACLU, Wikimedia In Lawsuit To Stop Mass Surveillance Program.

* Stop Spying On Wikipedia Users.

* EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* The NSA's "U.S. Corporate Partners."

* I Fight Surveillance.

* Illegal Spying Below.

* Smith vs. Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* Stand Against Spying.

* The NSA Revelations All In One Chart.

* U.S. Supreme Court Limits Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF To Court: There's No Doubt The Government Destroyed NSA Spying Evidence.

* House Committee Puts NSA On Notice Over Encryption Standards.

* Which Tech Companies Help Protect You From Government Data Demands?

* Lawsuit Demands DOJ Release More Secret Surveillance Court Rulings.

* Human Rights Organizations To Foreign Ministers: Stop Spying On Us.

* What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn't Do.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* Dear Supreme Court: Set Limits On Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF Fights National Security Letter Demands On Behalf Of Telecom, Internet Company.

* Eighth-Grader Schools The NSA.

* You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

* Today We Fight Back.

* The Day We Fight Back.

* FAQ: The NSA's Angry Birds.

* Jon Stewart: The Old Hope-A-Dope.

* Four Blatantly False Claims Obama Has Made About NSA Surveillance.

* EFF To DOJ In Lawsuit: Stop Pretending Information Revealed About NSA Over Last Seven Months Is Still A Secret.

* Judge On NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn't Actually Support His Ruling.

* Edward Snowden's Christmas Message.

* Jon Stewart: Obama Totally Lying About NSA Spying.

* Presidential Panel To NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption.

* The NSA Is Coming To Town.

* 60 Minutes We Can't Get Back.

* Why Care About The NSA?

* NSA Surveillance Drives Writers To Self-Censor.

* Filed: 22 Firsthand Accounts Of How NSA Surveillance Chilled The Right To Association.

* Claim On 'Attacks Thwarted' By NSA Spreads Despite Lack Of Evidence.

* Obama Vs. The World.

* How A Telecom Helped The Government Spy On Me.

* UN Member States Asked To End Unchecked Surveillance.

* Government Standards Agency: Don't Follow Our Encryption Guidelines Because NSA.

* Five More Organizations Join Lawsuit Against NSA.

* A Scandal Of Historic Proportions.

* Item: NSA Briefing.

* The Case Of The Missing NSA Blog Post.

* The NSA Is Out Of Control.

* Patriot Act Author Joins Lawsuit Against NSA.

* Obama's Promises Disappear From Web.

* Why NSA Snooping Is A Bigger Deal In Germany.

* Item: Today's NSA Briefing.

* NSA Briefing: It Just Got Worse (Again).

* Song of the Moment: Party at the NSA.

* It Not Only Can Happen Here, It Is Happening Here.

* What NSA Transparency Looks Like.

* America's Lying About Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Obama Continues To Lie His Ass Off About The NSA.

* The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President.

* America's Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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See also:
* Jimmy Carter: America's Shameful Human Rights Record.

* James Goodale: Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More.

* Daniel Ellsberg: Obama Has Committed Impeachable Offenses.

* Paul Steiger: Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on April 9, 2015


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