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U.S. court upholds dismissal of lawsuit against NSA on ‘state secrets and techniques’ grounds

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Sept 16 (Reuters) – A U.S. federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, that challenged the National Security Agency’s mass interception and looking out of Americans’ worldwide web communications.

In a divided ruling on Wednesday, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the lawsuit should be dismissed after the federal government invoked the “state secrets privilege”, which meant {that a} full exploration of the difficulty in a court would harm nationwide safety.

The Wikimedia Foundation had stated in its lawsuit that the NSA’s “Upstream” surveillance program captures some of its worldwide communications and is a violation of the U.S. structure’s First Amendment free-speech rights and its Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

“Although the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the government as to Wikimedia’s standing, we agree that the state secrets privilege requires the termination of this suit,” Judge Albert Diaz wrote in a majority opinion by the court.

Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, who dissented within the court ruling, warned that almost all opinion “stands for a sweeping proposition: A suit may be dismissed under the state secrets doctrine, after minimal judicial review, even when the government premises its only defenses on far-fetched hypotheticals.”

Upstream’s existence was revealed in leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 and the lawsuit was filed within the aftermath of these revelations.

The Wikimedia Foundation stated it disagreed with the ruling on Wednesday and is contemplating choices for additional overview within the courts.

“In the face of extensive public evidence about NSA surveillance, the court’s reasoning elevates extreme claims of secrecy over the rights of Internet users,” stated James Buatti, senior authorized supervisor on the Wikimedia Foundation.

The lawsuit was first dismissed in 2015 after a U.S. District decide discovered lack of proof that the NSA was conducting surveillance “at full throttle.” But the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case in 2017 and despatched it again to the decrease court, which once more dismissed it in 2019.

Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Sam Holmes

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A man is seen near cyber code and the U.S. National Security Agency logo in this photo illustration taken in Sarajevo March 11, 2015. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

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