The lawsuit seeks a court order forcing the NSA to end the program and destroy any copies of US residents' e-mail and phone calls that exist. The lawsuit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.
"The plaintiffs are doing this ... to obtain personal accountability from the architects of the program and to provide a strong incentive against future lawbreaking by these or other government officials," Bankston said. "Our lawsuit today should sound a clear warning to future occupants of the White House, as well as future heads of the [Department of Justice] and the NSA: If you break the law and violate Americans' privacy, there will be consequences."
The EFF also filed a 2006 lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program. But the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, the surveillance bill passed by Congress in July, requires that a court dismiss the more than 40 existing surveillance lawsuits against telecom carriers if the carriers can show that they were told by government officials that the surveillance orders were legal.
The EFF believes courts will not dismiss the lawsuits against those carriers, but the advocacy group filed a new lawsuit focused on government officials in an attempt to get the NSA program shuttered quicker, Bankston said.
The lawsuit seeks to have the court declare that the spying program violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of speech, and the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure by the government. The program also violates US privacy laws, Bankston said.
The lawsuit comes just days after the Washington Post reported that Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, pushed to keep the program operating, even as DOJ officials and NSA auditors began to have doubts about its legality in 2004. The EFF names Addington as a defendant in the lawsuit.