Idaho Nurse’s Lawsuit against Bulk Collection of Phone Records Gains Supporters

Monday, July 21, 2014
(graphic: Steve Straehley, AllGov)

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ personal telephone data is still being challenged by a nurse from Idaho, and now she’s getting help from some heavyweight civil liberties groups.


Anna Smith took on the NSA shortly after President Barack Obama confirmed the agency’s controversial surveillance work involving domestic communications. But her lawsuit contending the spying violates her First and Fourteenth amendment rights hit a roadblock in June when federal district Judge Lynn Winmill dismissed her case.


Winmill ruled that a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland, prevented him from siding with Anna Smith, even though he shared her concerns about the privacy implications of the NSA’s work.


Smith, a customer of Verizon, which had turned over customers’ data to the government, filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit court.


It was then that two major organizations, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), decided to help Smith with her fight.


She will continue to be represented by her husband, Peter J. Smith IV, and Idaho state Representative Luke Malek (R). ACLU and EFF attorneys will act as co-counsels.


“When I found out that the NSA was collecting records of my phone calls, I was shocked,” Smith said in a prepared statement. “I have heard of other governments spying indiscriminately on their own citizens, but I naively thought it did not happen in America. I believe who I call, when I call them, and how long we talk is not something the government should be able to get without a warrant. I sued because I believe the Constitution protects my calls from government searches. I am thrilled that the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation agreed to assist us in this case. What Americans can reasonably expect to remain private is an issue of monumental importance.”


One stumbling block Smith might face is that published information shows that Verizon Business Systems was ordered to turn over phone records. Smith is a customer of Verizon Wireless and she is assuming in her suit that that unit of Verizon was likewise required to give call information to the government. If she can’t prove her information was turned over to the NSA however, the suit could be dismissed on those grounds.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

EFF, ACLU Join Idaho Mom’s Legal Challenge to NSA Surveillance (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Nurse's NSA Lawsuit Gains Firepower (by Steven Nelson, U.S. News & World Report)

Northern Idaho Mom Sues President over Government Surveillance Program (by Jerry Markon, Washington Post)

Appeal to 9th of NSA Spying Joined by EFF (by Nick Divito, Courthouse News Service)


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