ACLU sues government officials over NSA surveillance program

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s telephone surveillance program, arguing the program violates First Amendment rights of free speech and association, as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment.

The complaint, filed Tuesday by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), also claims that the program exceeds the authority that is provided by the Patriot Act.

"This dragnet program is surely one of the largest surveillance efforts ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens," said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, in a statement issued Tuesday. "It is the equivalent of requiring every American to file a daily report with the government of every location they visited, every person they talked to on the phone, the time of each call, and the length of every conversation. The program goes far beyond even the permissive limits set by the Patriot Act and represents a gross infringement of the freedom of association and the right to privacy."

The suit names James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, and the leaders of the Defense Department, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the Department of Justice.

"There needs to be a bright line on where intelligence gathering stops," said NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman. "If we don't say this is too far, when is too far?"

Reuters contributed to this report.