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"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad"

James Madison, May 13, 1798

CNSS Spotlight on the Issues

Writing in The Hill, CNSS Warns Congress That Not Voting on War Authorization Against ISIL Is the Real Blank Check for War
In The Hill's Congress Blog, Director Kate Martin urges Congress to consider and vote on the president’s war authorization against ISIL to uphold its constitutional responsibility and reject the over broad interpretation of the 2001 war authority. 

Published on 27 Mar 2015

CNSS Applauds Privacy Watchdog Report Tracking Implementation of Surveillance Reforms
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board released its Recommendation Assessment Report evaluating the Obama Administration’s progress in implementing the Board’s recommended surveillance reforms contained in its Section 215 and Section 702 reviews.  CNSS urged the PCLOB to “undertake an examination and prepare public reports on the status of its recommendations… in time for consideration of the upcoming sunset of 215 authority in June 2015” in comments submitted in August 2014. 

Published on 29 Jan 2015

Amicus CNSS Argues NSA Metadata Program Violates Section 215
On November, 4, 2014, the D.C. Circuit heard oral argument in one of three cases challenging the legality of the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata.  In the D.C. case, Klayman v. Obama, the plaintiff and amici EFF and ACLU argued that the bulk collection violates the Fourth Amendment.  CNSS filed an amicus brief arguing that the program was never authorized by Congress and violates section 215.  CNSS represented by Paul Smith of Jenner and Block, argued that Congress never intended to give the NSA the authority to continuously collect the telephone records of all Americans.  Section 215 on its face is limited to the FBI, not the NSA, and is limited to records relevant to investigations, which by definition must be something less than all records.  A similar challenge is pending before the Ninth Circuit, Smith v. Obama, and CNSS also filed an amicus brief in that case arguing that the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata collection wasn’t authorized by Congress.  The third civil pending case, ACLU v. Clapper was argued before the Second Circuit in September 2014 and in that case, plaintiff ACLU challenged the program as a violation of both the statute and the Constitution. 

Published on 04 Nov 2014


CNSS Amicus Brief Arguing that NSA's Bulk Telephone Metadata Program Was Never Authorized By Congress

In April 2014, CNSS filed an Amicus Brief before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, making the case that the court's (now public) orders to phone companies to hand over all telephone metadata of all customers to the NSA are not authorized by Congress in section 215 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.  CNSS pointed out that the NSA itself would be “strengthened when Americans are assured that its powerful tools are directed outward not inward but is weakened when it is thrust into the role of analyst and archivist for the details of calls of all Americans.”  The government refused to file an opposition to CNSS’s brief and to date the FISA Court has continued to authorize the program.

 Published on 04 Nov 2014

CNSS’ Comments to the PCLOB on the Board’s Agenda

CNSS' comments to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board suggesting additional investigations and oversight of the government’s surveillance programs. 

 Published on 28 Aug 2014

CNSS' Statement Supporting the USA FREEDOM Act (S. 2685)

CNSS supports passage of the revised USA FREEDOM Act S.2685 by Senator Patrick Leahy and others to end bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata under the so-called “section 215” program. Text of the bill can be found here, and the summary is here

 Published on 29 Jul 2014

Guest Post: Would the USA Freedom Act End All Authorities for Bulk Collection?

Writing on Just Security, CNSS calls on the Obama administration to disclose whether the Justice Department has claimed that the NSA’s bulk metadata collection could be legal under other authorities in addition to “section 215”,  which section Congress proposes to amend in the USA Freedom Act.  In February, CNSS asked the Justice Department and the ODNI to declassify and disclose more information about the history of the bulk metadata program, including a 2004 Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel Memorandum which apparently discussed the legal basis for such collection.  While both Members of the House and the administration claim that the House-passed USA Freedom Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection in fulfillment of the President’s pledge to do so, that claim is impossible to evaluate without knowing whether the Justice Department claims that there are other potential authorities which could be used by this or a future administration to reinstate bulk collection, even if the USA Freedom Act is enacted.  


 Published on 17 Jul 2014

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