Tag Archives: surveillance through Verizon

Fear of the Enemy Within: Unrestricted Surveillance

The Supreme Court declined to hear a constitutional challenge to a secretive government surveillance program, dealing a setback to privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a looming debate in Congress over whether to renew the law that authorizes the intelligence tool.

In a brief order issued on February 2023, the high court said it wouldn’t hear arguments challenging the legality of the National Security Agency program known as “Upstream,” in which the intelligence agency collects and monitors internet communications without obtaining search warrants. Classified details about the program were among those exposed a decade ago by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been charged with theft of government property and violating espionage laws and lives in Russia.

The legal challenge was brought by Wikimedia, the nonprofit owner of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Wikimedia was represented by lawyers at the ACLU, Cooley LLP and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Wikimedia’s lawyers urged the high court to rein in the “state secrets privilege,” a legal doctrine that allows the government to shut down lawsuits that could jeopardize sensitive national-security information. 

“The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant our petition strikes a blow against an individual’s right to privacy and freedom of expression—two cornerstones of our society and the building blocks of Wikipedia,” said James Buatti, Wikimedia’s legal director, in a statement.

Excerpts from  Jan Wolfe  and Dustin Volz, Justices Won’t Hear Challenged to NSA Surveillance, Feb. 22, 2023

Wikipedia Lawsuit against U.S. NSA

Excerpts from the Lawsuit of Wikipedia against the NSA


The government conducts at least two kinds of surveillance under the The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA).  Under a program called “PRISM,” the government obtains stored and real-time communications directly from U.S. companies—such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Microsoft—that provide communications services to targeted accounts.

This case concerns a second form of surveillance, called Upstream. Upstream surveillance involves the NSA’s seizing and searching the internet communications of U.S. citizens and residents en masse as those communications travel across the internet “backbone” in the United States. The internet backbone is the network of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that facilitates both domestic and international communication via the internet.The NSA conducts Upstream surveillance by connecting surveillance devices to multiple major internet cables, switches, and routers inside the United States. These access points are controlled by the country’s largest telecommunications providers, including Verizon Communications, Inc. and AT&T, Inc. ….

. With the assistance of telecommunications providers, the NSA intercepts a wide variety of internet communications, including emails, instant messages, webpages, voice calls, and video chats. It copies and reviews substantially all international emails and other “text-based” communications—i.e., those whose content includes searchable text.

More specifically, Upstream surveillance encompasses the following processes, some of which are implemented by telecommunications providers acting at the NSA’s direction:

• Copying. Using surveillance devices installed at key access points, the NSA makes a copy of substantially all international text-based communications—and many domestic ones—flowing across certain high-capacity cables, switches, and routers. The copied traffic includes email, internet-messaging communications, web-browsing content, and search-engine queries.

• Filtering. The NSA attempts to filter out and discard some wholly domestic communications from the stream of internet data, while preserving international communications. The NSA’s filtering out of domestic communications is incomplete, however, for multiple reasons. Among them, the NSA does not eliminate bundles of domestic and international communications that transit the internet backbone together. Nor does it eliminate domestic communications that happen to be routed abroad.

• Content Review. The NSA reviews the copied communications—including their full content—for instances of its search terms. The search terms, called “selectors,” include email addresses, phone numbers, internet protocol (“IP”) addresses, and other identifiers that NSA analysts believe to be associated with foreign intelligence targets. Again, the NSA’s targets are not limited to suspected foreign agents and terrorists, nor are its selectors limited to individual email addresses. The NSA may monitor or “task” selectors used by large groups of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing— such as the IP addresses of computer servers used by hundreds of different people.

• Retention and Use. The NSA retains all communications that contain selectors associated with its targets, as well as those that happened to be bundled with them in transit….

NSA analysts may read, query, data-mine, and analyze these communications with few restrictions, and they may share the results of those efforts with the FBI, including in aid of criminal investigations….. In other words, the NSA copies and reviews the communications of millions of innocent people to determine whether they are discussing or reading anything containing the NSA’s search terms. The NSA’s practice of reviewing the content of communications for selectors is sometimes called “about” surveillance. This is because its purpose is to identify not just communications that are to or from the NSA’s targets but also those that are merely “about” its targets. Although it could do so, the government makes no meaningful effort to avoid the interception of communications that are merely “about” its targets; nor does it later purge those communications.

PDF document of Lawsuit