A group of privacy experts under the banner of the Electronic Privacy Information Center is citing a 2011 federal court ruling on TSA body scanners in an effort to petition the NSA over warrantless spying.
The group, including former intelligence analyst James Bamford, and cryptographers Whitfield Diffie and Bruce Schneier, has petitioned the NSA, asserting that, as well as violating the Fourth Amendment, the domestic surveillance program is “unlawful” because the agency did not ever seek public comment on a program that directly affects the public.
“In simple terms, a line has been crossed,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told CNET. “The agency’s function has been transformed, and we think the public should have an opportunity to say something about that.”
EPIC is citing a July 2011 court ruling (PDF) by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which stated that the TSA flouted the law by neglecting to seek public comment on the mass roll out of body scanners in airports.
For months, the TSA ignored the ruling before it was forced by repeated efforts by EPIC to adhere to the court ruling.
EPIC hope that a similar tactic can be used to force more transparency where the NSA is concerned.
EPIC’s petition asserts that the program “substantively affects the public to a degree sufficient to implicate the policy interests” that require public comment, and that “NSA’s collection of domestic communications absent the opportunity for public comment is unlawful.”
“NSA’s collection of domestic communications contravenes the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and violates several federal privacy laws, including the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 as amended.” the petition also states.
In a statement on its website, the group said it intends to renew its request to NSA director Keith Alexander and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel every week until the agency responds.
Adding their names to those of Bamford, Diffie, and Schneier on the petition are prominent computer scientists David Farber, Barbara Simons and Ronald Rivest.