In a blog post on Tuesday, online encyclopedia Wikipedia announced it and eight other organizations will file a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawsuit claims that the NSA’s large-scale surveillance of U.S. internet traffic (called “upstream” surveillance) is a violation of both the first amendment, which protects freedom of speech, and the fourth amendment, which bans unreasonable search and seizure.

wikipedia NSA

The blog post noted:”Our aim in filing this suit is to end this mass surveillance program in order to protect the rights of our users around the world.”

Wikimedia (parent of Wikipedia) and the eight other activist organizations who filed the lawsuit (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA among others) will be represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Statement from Founder of Wikipedia

“We’re filing suit today on behalf of our readers and editors everywhere,” Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, commented in Tuesday blog. “Surveillance erodes the original promise of the internet: an open space for collaboration and experimentation, and a place free from fear.”

More on the Wikipedia lawsuit against the NSA

The blog post goes on to explain that the suit is designed to challenge the NSA’s use of upstream surveillance under the authority of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act. The NSA taps directly into the “backbone” of the internet to surveil communications with “non-U.S. persons.”  Unfortunately, due to overzealous intelligence officials, the program casts a very wide net, and constantly captures communications not connected to any “target” or that are completely domestic. Of note, communications by Wikipedia users and staff have been surveilled.

“By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy,” noted Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation. “Wikipedia is founded on the freedoms of expression, inquiry, and information. By violating our users’ privacy, the NSA is threatening the intellectual freedom that is central to people’s ability to create and understand knowledge.”

These overzealous officials at the NSA have interpreted the FAA as giving them unlimited discretion in defining threats, identify targets, and tracking people, platforms, and infrastructure with little to no probable cause. The blog post notes: “Webelieve that the NSA’s current practices far exceed the already broad authority granted by the U.S. Congress through the FAA. Furthermore, we believe that these practices violate the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.”