Wikipedia Just Joined the List of Pissed-Off Organisations Suing the NSA

By Kate Knibbs on at

Wikipedia's parent organisation just joined the fight against dragnet government surveillance in the US.

The Wikimedia Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a joint lawsuit today against the US National Security Administration for its spying tactics. It challenges the well-documented surveillance program as a violation of Fourth Amendment privacy rights, an infringement on First Amendment rights and an overstepping of the authority given to the NSA under the FISA Amendments Act.

"The reason we're filing this lawsuit is that we feel we've been harmed directly by the NSA," Wikimedia general counsel Geoff Brigham told me, noting that the NSA targeted Wikipedia explicitly in a top-secret document revealed by Edward Snowden. Plaintiffs stretch across political boundaries and include both conservative and liberal organisations.

This is far from the only recent lawsuit against the NSA. In February, a judge announced that he can't rule in Jewel vs. NSA, a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against the NSA's spying tactics. The EFF has also filed a suit regarding government spying in July 2013 (First Unitarian vs. NSA) and helped the ACLU on the legal team for Smith vs. Obama, which also argued that bulk government data collection violates American citizens' Fourth Amendment rights.

So far, none of these cases have worked out. Smith v. Obama was dismissed. And the ACLU cited Clapper vs. Amnesty as a precedent to this case. While that lawsuit wound up dismissed by the Supreme Court after it determined that plaintiffs couldn't prove they were getting spied on, there's still a lot of optimism this time around.

"I expect the district court will rule in our favour and that the NSA will accept that ruling," Bingham told me.

First Unitarian is still pending, and also boasts a long and weird list of organisations united together primarily by their reluctance to be okay with sweeping government surveillance. Just to give you a glimpse at the scope of furious groups, here's a list of all the companies and organisations currently participating in pending suits related to the NSA's surveillance program in the US:

  • Wikimedia Foundation
  • Rutherford Institute
  • The Nation magazine
  • Amnesty International USA
  • PEN American Center
  • Human Rights Watch
  • National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
  • Global Fund for Women
  • Washington Office on Latin America
  • First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles
  • Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
  • The National Lawyers Guild
  • Greenpeace, Inc.
  • Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Human Rights Watch
  • People for the American Way
  • California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees
  • Franklin Armory
  • The Calguns Foundation
  • Free Software Foundation
  • Public Knowledge
  • Free Press
  • Acorn Active Media Foundation
  • Patient Privacy Rights
  • The Shalom Center
  • Charity and Security Network
  • TechFreedom
  • Students for Sensible Drug Policy Foundation
  • NORML, California Chapter
  • Media Alliance
  • Bill of Rights Defense Committee

I have a feeling this list will just keep growing if the pending cases aren't heard soon. So far, Obama's weak stabs at NSA reform haven't exactly soothed reasonable concerns that government surveillance is an uncontrolled privacy piss-storm on the other side of the Atlantic. But what about in the UK?