We were disappointed today to learn that a federal appeals court in Pasadena declined to consider EFF’s appeal of a ruling in Jewel v. NSA, our long-running lawsuit battling unconstitutional mass surveillance of Internet and phone communications. While we are disappointed that government’s stall tactics prevailed here, the case still lives on. We look forward to litigating back in the lower court, making it clear that Internet backbone spying is unconstitutional.
We had hoped to get to that issue more quickly—the case is now in its seventh year—and that was our aim in filing the appeal. But the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit accepted the government’s argument that the court cannot yet decide whether the Fourth Amendment is violated when the government taps into the Internet cables carrying the communications of millions of Americans. Instead, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court must first decide the entire case because the questions on appeal are intertwined with the broader set of issues raised in our case.
Despite all the procedural complication, it’s important to remember what this is really about: the NSA is tapping in to the fiber optic cables of America’s telecommunications companies. That’s a digital dragnet that subjects millions of ordinary people to government spying on their online activities. A mountain of evidence from whistleblowers and the government itself confirms this. The government’s delay strategies haven’t dampened our resolve that this case is crucial to preserving our privacy and civil liberties.