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Smith v. Obama

LEGAL CASE

Smith v. Obama

In July 2014 the EFF, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, joined the legal team for Anna Smith, an Idaho emergency neonatal nurse, in her challenge of the government's bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans.

Smith filed suit against President Obama and several U.S. intelligence agencies shortly after the government confirmed revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Smith, a customer of Verizon wireless, one of the companies that was ordered to disclose records to the NSA, argued the program violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by collecting a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations.

When U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill dismissed Smith's case, he expressed grave concerns about the privacy implications of the NSA's surveillance but said that he believed that a 1979 Supreme Court case about targeted surveillance tied his hands. Along with EFF and the ACLU, Smith appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court heard oral argument in the case on December 8, 2014. You can watch the oral argument here.  

In March 2016 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that, because this bulk collection program was already ended by the USA FREEDOM Act, a court could not order the government to end the program. The ruling also sent the case back to a lower trial court in Idaho to determine whether the U.S. government must delete Smith’s records. As the government cannot currently delete plaintiff’s records on account of preservation requirements in other ongoing litigation, the case remains on hold.

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