ACLU sues US government over NSA spying

NSA protestor Revelations about the extent of the NSA's spying programmes have prompted protests

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The US government is being sued by civil liberties groups for details about the National Security Agency (NSA) overseas surveillance programme.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) wants to find out what happens to data on Americans the NSA scoops up.

The lawsuit comes three days after a US judge ruled that a separate NSA spying programme was lawful.

More details of the NSA's access to phones and networking hardware have been released by privacy campaigners.

Hardware hit

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and Yale University's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic, and seeks information about the "vast quantities" of data that the NSA has been found to be collecting.

It was "inevitable" that data sent by Americans would be gathered as part of this surveillance system that targets overseas communication, said ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo in a blog post.

The ACLU wants the courts to make the US government provide details of the executive order that established the overseas spying programme. It said that there being little or no oversight of the programme was cause for concern.

"We now know too well that unchecked surveillance authority can lead to dangerous overreach," wrote Mr Abdo.

In a separate development, New York District Judge William Pauley dismissed on 27 December a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June, which claimed that the way the NSA tracked million of calls contravened the US constitution.

In his ruling, Judge Pauley said there was no evidence that the "bulk telephony data" collected by the NSA was used for anything other than "investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks". The ACLU said it would appeal against the ruling.

The legal wrangles come as privacy campaigner Jacob Applebaum released details of other NSA spying programmes that targeted hardware.

In a speech given to the Chaos Communications Congress in Hamburg, Mr Applebaum said the NSA had managed to put back doors into products made by Cisco, Dell, Apple, HP, Huawei and Juniper Networks.

"Basically their goal is to have total surveillance of everything that they are interested in," Mr Applebaum told the conference.

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