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Jewel v. National Security Agency

Post categories

  1. Newsgathering

Court: U.S. Supreme Court

Date Filed: Feb. 18, 2022

Background: In 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, representing a group of AT&T customers, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s mass collection of communications records.

For more than a decade, the case bounced around federal courts before a panel of judges for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling dismissing the lawsuit in August 2021.

The EFF then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.

Our Position: The Supreme Court should recognize that the programs challenged in the plaintiffs’ complaint threaten the freedom of the press and should be reviewed.

  • The surveillance programs at issue in this case threaten the confidentiality of reporter-source relationships vital to the free press.
  • The mass surveillance programs at issue in this case can circumvent the government’s own safeguards protecting reporter-source confidentiality and the free press.

Quote: “Journalists regularly rely on communications with confidential sources to inform their reporting. These sources often need anonymity to confide in journalists without fear that they may — if their identities are revealed — risk prosecution, loss of employment, and even threats to their lives. When the threat of surveillance intrudes on those confidential relationships, it dams the free flow of information, leaving the public with less essential information on the critical issues of the day.”

Related: In 2014, the Reporters Committee, joined by a coalition of 18 news organizations, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case with a federal district court in California. The brief argued, among other things, that the federal government’s mass telephone call tracking program is an inherently overbroad system of monitoring and investigation.