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Communications Privacy The Courts United States Wikipedia Politics

Wikimedia Foundation Files Suit Against NSA and DOJ 103

jrepin sends along the news (excerpted from the Wikimedia Foundation's blog) that Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is filing suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the United States. The lawsuit challenges the NSA's mass surveillance program, and specifically its large-scale search and seizure of internet communications — frequently referred to as "upstream" surveillance. 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. We are joined by eight other organizations and represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
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Wikimedia Foundation Files Suit Against NSA and DOJ

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  • So this is what they use donations for. They should have collected a fund specifically for this, because some people will see the aim as unrealistic (in that they probably won't win and even if they did the NSA may carry on in secret) and some may think mas surveillance necessary
    • by Wootery ( 1087023 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @07:58AM (#49224005)

      I think you have a good point, but here's a relevant extract from TFA:

      Privacy is the bedrock of individual freedom. It is a universal right that sustains the freedoms of expression and association. These principles enable inquiry, dialogue, and creation and are central to Wikimedia’s vision of empowering everyone to share in the sum of all human knowledge. When they are endangered, our mission is threatened. If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it.

      • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

        If people look over their shoulders before searching, pause before contributing to controversial articles, or refrain from sharing verifiable but unpopular information, Wikimedia and the world are poorer for it.

        I suspect that the Wikipedia group think suppresses more contributions than any real or imagined fear of the NSA.

        Glad they're using my donation for server costs though, which I believe was the headline the last time they pestered me for money. At least when my local PBS station begs me for money they spend it on things that are more than tangentially related to delivering the product that I use and love.

      • The problem here is that the extract reads more like a high flying call for political action than the kind of down to earth case or controversy a judge can decide.
    • by facetube ( 4023065 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:20AM (#49224139)
      Counterpoint: when your government is deliberately sabotaging your organization's business-critical infrastructure, attacking your users without constitutional or meaningful judicial oversight, and devaluing your organization's reputation and trademark rights by implying your organization is a willing participant in all of this... you might see it as an existential threat.
    • I made donations because I like using their services, then I feel that they can do whatever they want with my (their) money.

      Moreover, I think this issue is one of the most critical ones for the future of the world as we know it.

    • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @09:03AM (#49224483) Journal

      Utterly stupid. The ACLU is picking up the tab. The only reason Wikipedia is doing it is because the last case was thrown out for lack of cause, and the NSA has specifically mentioned Wikipedia, so they can prove damages are specific to them. In short, Wikipedia is the only group that CAN sue them and prove they were singled out, based on the actual words of the NSA themselves. This makes it 10x more likely the case will go the distance.

      • This makes it 10x more likely the case will go the distance.

        Assuming the Gov't doesn't feel empowered enough to simply throw the suit out 'because screw you, what are you gonna do about it?', they'll win a CoIntelPro victory where 'that' intel program is shut down. Of course it's shut down by re-shuffling it's duties into a slightly different structure with new names. The wholesale warrant-less spying doesn't slow down for a moment. Those with the power to meaningfully reign it in are the biggest beneficiaries of what the NSA is doing.

        • by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @11:25AM (#49225841)

          This isn't about money, this isn't about closing down one specific named program. It's about raising awareness, for one, and about fighting for our rights in general. I'm behind that.

          What I wish they'd do is make the situation more sorely obvious. They have the eyeballs and the screen real estate, and they used it once, back when the 2nd (I think) SOPA attempt was coming around. For all the times I've seen those slide-in banners talking about "Buy one programmer a cup of coffee," I wonder about the impact if those banners instead said "Your government is watching you read this article right now!"

          I'm a middle-aged guy and I wind up on Wikipedia at least once a day, I know the younger generation is probably hitting it more frequently doing research for papers and assignments. Put it right in their face. That big yellow donation banner, but with substituted text for visitors from the US,

          "Your government watches everything you do on the internet. Even your religious and church communications! Even your private Snapchats! This is unconstitutional. Complain loudly to your representatives today."

          ::shrug:: That's what I'd do.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:01AM (#49224027)

    The court will just decide — as others have before — that they don't have standing to sue. Because the spying programs are secret they cannot prove that they specifically have been spied upon illegally.

    </cynicism>

    • I was going to post this. Wikimidia can't sue because the NSAIDs spied on the world. They need to show that NSAIDs harmed them before a suit can proceed. This standing issue is in the constitution.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yes, the evil spying program of NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:40AM (#49224303)

      The article specifically addresses the issue of standing:

      "The 2013 mass surveillance disclosures included a slide from a classified NSA presentation that made explicit reference to Wikipedia, using our global trademark. Because these disclosures revealed that the government specifically targeted Wikipedia and its users, we believe we have more than sufficient evidence to establish standing."

      • The article specifically addresses the issue of standing:

        "The 2013 mass surveillance disclosures included a slide from a classified NSA presentation that made explicit reference to Wikipedia, using our global trademark. Because these disclosures revealed that the government specifically targeted Wikipedia and its users, we believe we have more than sufficient evidence to establish standing."

        So instead it will be thrown out as 'fruit of the poisoned tree' (stolen documents).

        Same police state, different

        • Not quite. That only applies if the government wrongfully acquired the documents, knew they were wrongfully obtained, and used them anyway. It is typically avoided by claiming they didn't realize they were wrongfully obtained and they were acting in good faith.

          Wikimedia learned of the violations through legally available public documents.

          The violations were more than just eavesdropping. The publicly available leaked documents claim the NSA falsified records and used the Wikipedia trademarks to help claim

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1...

    wikimedia foundation cannot prove that they (the organization) has been spied upon (government will not offer evidence to prove it cuz 'national security') and even if they were they can't prove that it has hurt them. cases with more merit have been tossed. this one will be too.

    • by Noah Haders ( 3621429 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:07AM (#49224075)

      The good news here is that the aclu and eff are participating. These orgs are very savvy and wouldn't waste time on a suit with no chance.

      • The good news here is that the aclu and eff are participating. These orgs are very savvy and wouldn't waste time on a suit with no chance.

        You forgot the sarcasm tag.

      • by jc42 ( 318812 )

        The good news here is that the aclu and eff are participating. These orgs are very savvy and wouldn't waste time on a suit with no chance.

        The bad news is that, even if the court allows the case to proceed, and they win, the NSA will simply ignore the court's decision and continue their work. They're above (or beside or in a parallel universe to) the legal system.

        The only real way to fight them is to find ways to expose their activities to the rest of the world. There are some technical problems with doing this effectively, such as jailing or assassination of outside investigators.

        (Is there a documented, verifiable case of any "secret"

        • the justice system moves slow, but when it gets moving in a direction it can sweep over a topic like a tsunami (eg a strong tide). think of gay marriage. There was no single block buster case. Instead, it was a progression, where in some states it was legalized, in other states it was illegalized. Everywhere it went to district courts, and some won and some lost. These filtered up to state supreme courts, again with a variety of rulings and justifications. Then, federal district courts ruled different ways.

    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      Don't you think that the ACLU and other plaintiffs are well aware of the arguments that the government has used in previous cases?
      I'm not saying that they'll win, but they've obviously got something more than what they had with ACLU v. NSA or Amnesty v. Clapper.

  • but to see them actually go for it? ... the poor bastards...

  • FTA: The 2013 mass surveillance disclosures included a slide from a classified NSA presentation that made explicit reference to Wikipedia, using our global trademark. Because these disclosures revealed that the government specifically targeted Wikipedia and its users, we believe we have more than sufficient evidence to establish standing.

    The slide they reference contains a random collection of corporate logos (which bizarrely includes MySpace, CNN, and Google Earth). It doesn't say anything about actual
    • by moeinvt ( 851793 )

      I'm certainly cheering for Wikimedia, et al. Of course the odds are against them when you have the government deciding how much power the government has.
      The ACLU lawyers are no dummies however. This time around they must have something that they believe can be used to demonstrate legal standing. They're not going to file a new case that the government will be able to shut down using the exact same strategies used to kill the previous cases. Remember also that none of the Snowden revelations had come out

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:07AM (#49224077) Journal
    Focusing on the NSA and the DOJ, arguably the most well known of the privacy violators, ignores the evidence that the majority of the World's governments engage in this sort of behavior.

    If the lawsuit were successful, and if the organizations named as defendants in the suit ceased and desisted surveillance operations, all that would occur is a de facto victory in the surveillance arms race for America's opponents.

    It's fairly sad, but very true to say this genie is out of the bottle.

    • Ah, yes, the good ol' they-do-it-so-we-have-to.

      Totally ignoring the facts that you have to start somewhere, that it is best to start where you have at lease some chance at success (as slim as it may be in reality), and that this suit will likely not stop the NSA from spying outside of America so they will only lose the 'surveillance arms race' of spying on Americans.

      • Yes.

        The "awareness" part of this will require popcorn.

      • Also ignoring that America is still an influential force in the world. Unfortunately, much of our influence has been directed in a negative manner (e.g. copyright expansion). Imagine if the US government used its influence to put rational limits on spying. Would everyone immediately stop? Of course not, but it would push a lot of countries in the right direction and give some us good momentum.

    • "Jimmy steals from the shops, Ma, so it's okay for me to do it, too."

    • by other countries is WHERE? I mean, except for the five eyes, that was coordinated by US.

    • shut down the NSA and we won't have contract required backdoors all over the place. So you could make your stuff more secure. Either we are all secure or no one is. The NSA makes EVEVYONE less safe. Other governments can't force limits on encryption and demand keys to the castles
  • by MrKaos ( 858439 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @08:11AM (#49224097) Journal
    Legitimate intelligence gathering is a good thing. Intelligence operations that hide corruption or incompetance is not.
  • There's a song about this...It's called the "authority song" by John Cougar.

    "I fight authority, authority always wins."
    • Did John "Cougar" Mellencamp write "Authority Song" [youtube.com]? I seem to remember it being released first by Neil Diamond with different lyrics as "Cherry, Cherry" [youtube.com].

      • No, not the same song at all.

        And Neil Diamond ... well, there's a deep rabbit hole.... (shudders)
  • by neo-mkrey ( 948389 ) on Tuesday March 10, 2015 @10:21AM (#49225141)
    'nuff said
  • ... No standing.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.

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