U.S. court upholds dismissal of suit against NSA on ‘state secrets’ grounds By Reuters
By Kanishka Singh
(Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, that challenged the National Security Agency’s mass interception and searching of Americans’ international internet communications.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a split decision on Wednesday. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the lawsuit should be dropped after the government invoked the “state secrets privilege”. This meant that a detailed investigation of this issue by a court would cause harm to national security.
According to the lawsuit, Wikimedia Foundation claimed the NSA’s Upstream surveillance program captures its international communications. It is a violation the First Amendment’s free speech rights as well as the Fourth Amendment’s rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In a majority decision by the court, Judge Albert Diaz stated that Wikimedia had not established a real issue of material facts as to standing. Further litigation could expose state secrets.
Diaz stated that even though the court granted summary judgment to Wikimedia regarding Wikimedia’s standing, they agreed that the suit must be dismissed because of the state secrets privilege.
Judge Diana Gribbon Motz who dissented in court’s ruling warned that “the majority opinion stands for a broad proposition: A suit can be dismissed under state secrets doctrine after minimal judicial scrutiny even though the government bases its sole defenses on far-fetched hypotheses.”
The existence of Upstream was exposed in leaked documents by Edward Snowden, an ex-NSA contractor in 2013, and the lawsuit was filed shortly after those leaks.
The Wikimedia foundation said that Wednesday’s ruling was not in accordance with its views.
James Buatti is senior legal manager for the Wikimedia foundation. He stated that “in the face of extensive public information about NSA surveillance,” the court’s reasoning raises extreme claims to secrecy over Internet users.
After a U.S. District court found no evidence, the lawsuit was dismissed for the first time in 2015. However, the fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived this case and returned it to the lower court in 2017. It was again dismissed in 2019.
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