Why We're Suing the NSA

Why We're Suing the NSA

Dear SSDP Members,

Last week, SSDP joined 18 other plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the NSA seeking to stop its surveillance of telephone and Internet communications of Verizon customers. You can read about the lawsuit here, and read the complaint filed against the government here.

SDP joined this lawsuit because this kind of surveillance directly harms our ability to build a movement to fix American drug policy. If you have ever tabled for SSDP on your campus and tried to recruit concerned students to work with your chapter, you have almost certainly had the experience of a student saying, “Yes, I agree with what you are doing, but I don’t want my name on any list that the government can get of people who want to change drug policy.”

One of the biggest problems our movement has always faced is the unwillingness of people who agree with us to join us because they are afraid that the government is spying on us. People have refused to join our organizations like NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, MPP, LEAP, SSDP etc. only because they feared that doing so would reveal their identity and result in their name being entered into a government database about drugs.

Remember that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects a lot more than freedom of speech and the press and the free exercise of religion. It also protects the right to petition the government for redress of grievances and the right to peaceably assemble. But when citizens are afraid to write to Members of Congress, sign a petition to a government agency or join or contribute to an organization whose aims they support because they fear government, it is a tragic sign that government spying is undermining basic liberties of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

SSDP joined this lawsuit because it is vital to our members that they retain privacy in their communications with us, with the news media, with government officials, with their professors, with university officials, and among themselves about social, political, legal, religious, environmental, and economic matters that are sensitive and often private. It is vital to us as an organization that students across the nation feel free to communicate openly with us and with others about drug policy and criminal justice without fear that their perfectly legal and constitutionally protected communications are being analyzed to identify the author for potential profiling and investigation. Students and others should not fear that their research activities, their papers and correspondence, and their financial activities including donations to us and allied organizations are being gathered and analyzed by government agencies in the absence of any suspicion whatsoever that there is anything in these communications, writings, or transactions that are unlawful or that they reveal any evidence of unlawful conduct.

This surveillance is in complete contradiction to the culture of American legal and political values and weakens the ability of citizens to work together peacefully to build a better society and a better world.

It must be stopped, not only for the benefit of SSDP and our members, but for the sake of our democracy.