Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, it is lawful for government intelligence agencies to conduct targeted phone surveillance. But after the government confirmed that the National Security Agency had engaged in bulk telephone surveillance, one North Idaho woman decided to sue the government.
"When I found out that the NSA was collecting records of my phone calls, I was shocked," said Anna Smith, an emergency neonatal nurse and mother of two who, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is suing President Barack Obama and a slew of U.S. intelligence agencies for violating her First and Fourth Amendment rights. Her statement was released via a press release from ACLU Idaho.
The case has been taken up by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has agreed to hear opening arguments after a brief due date of Sept. 2. Smith v. Obama
had previously been rejected by U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill June 3. Though Winmill expressed concern about transgressions against citizens' privacy, he said a 1979 Supreme Court case concerning targeted surveillance, Smith v. Maryland
, tied his hands.
"[Winmill's] decision, while he is forced to enjoin this, the reason he dismissed it was that he felt like previous rulings made it difficult for him to rule on this case, but in this ruling, he's struggling because he sees this case is difficult as well," said Leo Morales of ACLU Idaho.
Despite Winmill's dismissal of the case, Morales said it raises pressing First and Fourth Amendment issues at a time when the right to privacy is being challenged by security and intelligence communities within the government.
"This case is significant because it's just one of a handful in the country that are raising this very critical constitutional issue of the right to privacy," Morales said.