The entity behind Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundations partnered with the ACLU and the Knight Institute to try to get the US Supreme Court to force Congress to curtail the current NSA internet surveillance.
The decision leaves the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit with a divided opinion, which threw out Wikimedia’s challenge accepting the government’s “state secrets privilege” argument.
The notorious agency’s legal basis for such surveillance are based on FISA (Foreign Surveillance Act) which grew into quite a “monster” since it was first passed in 1978, and in particular after 9/11 – and, specifically with Section 702, introduced in 2008.
Section 702 is up for renewal later this year and this is what the petition sought to prevent. The contested legislation proved to be the foundation of much of the mass surveillance wrongdoings revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013.
Wikimedia and others unsuccessfully attempted to ensure that the NSA “upstream” surveillance program (the harmful nature of which is said to be backed up by a number of disclosures coming from government sources) would be “reviewed” rather than simply renewed this time. It allows the spy agency to search internet traffic to and from the US, and that means emails, messages and other communication belonging to Americans.
This means that both those on US soil and targeted individuals abroad are spied on.
Wikimedia’s Legal Director James Buatti slammed the court decision as damaging to individual rights to privacy and free speech, which he asserted were the building blocks not only of (democratic) society but even of Wikimedia itself.
The foundation also vowed to continue to this time urge Congress not to reauthorize Section 702 later in 2023.
The ACLU was no more satisfied with the ruling, saying that the Supreme Court sided with “secrecy,” at huge expense of the privacy of Americans.
“We depend on the courts to hold the government to account, especially when it wields powerful new technologies to peer into our lives like never before,” said ACLU Deputy Director of National Security Project Patrick Toomey said.
However, according to him, the government is failing to hold the agencies’ feet to the fire, even when they use the most powerful technologies known to date to carry out mass surveillance.
Toomey also accused the Supreme Court of allowing the executive branch – i.e., the government, “to hide abuses behind unjustifiable claims of secrecy.”
“It is now up to Congress to insist on landmark reforms that will safeguard Americans in the face of the NSA0s mass spying programs,” Tommey noted.