US Supreme Court rejects Wikipedia request to challenge NSA surveillance
By Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an offer from the operator of popular Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia to reinstate its lawsuit against the National Security Agency challenging mass online surveillance.
The judges denied the Wikimedia Foundation’s appeal and allowed a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit based on the government’s assertion of so-called state secrets privilege, a legal doctrine that can drop litigation if disclosure of certain information would harm US citizens’ security .
The Wikimedia Foundation, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued in 2015 the legality of the NSA’s “upstream” surveillance of foreign targets by “suspiciously” capturing and searching Internet traffic on data transmission lines flowing into and out of the United States.
The NSA, part of the Department of Defense, is the agency responsible for US cryptographic and communications intelligence and security. The US government has said that NSA surveillance was authorized by a 2008 amendment to federal law called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Upstream’s existence was revealed in 2013 by former NSA operative Edward Snowden, who later fled to Russia and granted Russian citizenship to President Vladimir Putin.
The lawsuit called the “surveillance flag” an unlawful invasion of Americans’ privacy, violating the US Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech, and the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. Wikimedia likened the NSA’s interception of its communications to the “seizure and search of the user records of the world’s largest library.”
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of the case in 2021, concluding that the NSA properly invoked the state’s privilege of secrecy — meaning the litigation cannot proceed may — because disclosure of details about surveillance could harm US intelligence operations.
Attorneys for the ACLU had urged the judges to hear the case, stating, “While this mass surveillance of Americans’ private communications raises serious constitutional questions, its legality has yet to be tested by any ordinary civil or criminal court in more than 20 years.” of their business.”
(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)