A California district judge ruled on Tuesday U.S. citizens cannot sue the National Security Agency for invading their privacy covertly unless the citizen can prove, without a doubt, the NSA was spying secretly on the citizen.
District Judge Jeffrey White ruled in Jewel v. NSA, the plaintiff could not sue the NSA because they did not obtain and provide for the courts any evidence showing their personal information was collected by the agency. Because of Jewel’s failure to provide such information, White wrote, according to Mother Jones, “even if Plaintiffs could establish standing, a potential Fourth Amendment Claim would have to be dismissed on the basis that any possible defenses would require impermissible disclosure of state secret information.”
What this means is even though the NSA has said in the past they are responsible for spying on American citizens, the NSA has not disclosed exactly how they spy on citizens. Because they have not disclosed the extent to which, or even how, they spy on citizens, it is therefore illegal to sue them for an invasion of privacy. However, once the methods are known, which the NSA has kept secret under the premise of national security, then citizens will be able to sue the NSA for an invasion of privacy.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, who represented the plaintiff in court, released a statement after the ruling, which reads the “ruling in Jewel v. NSA was not a declaration that NSA spying is legal. The judge decided instead that ‘state secrets’ prevented him from ruling whether the program is constitutional.”
The full court ruling can be found here.
The EFF has also said they will continue to fight to bring an end to the mass surveillance or citizen’s data despite this ruling.