Jewel v. NSA

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Jewel v. NSA
US DC NorCal.svg
CourtU.S. District Court, N.D. California
Full case nameCarolyn Jewel; Tash Hepting; Gregory Hicks; Erik Knutzen; Joice Walton, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated v. National Security Agency; Keith B. Alexander, Director; Michael V. Hayden; United States of America; George W. Bush, President of the United States; Richard B. Cheney; David S. Addington; Dep't. of Justice; Alberto R. Gonzales, John D. Ashcroft, John M. McConnell, Dir. of National Intelligence; John D. Negroponte; Michael B. Mukasey, Att'y General; Barack Hussein Obama; Eric H. Holder, Jr., Att'y General; Dennis C. Blair
Citation(s)673 F. 3d 902 (Ct.App., 9th Cir., 2011); No C 08-cv-4373 VRW, MDL No C 06-1791 VRW, No C 07-0693 VRW (Dist.Ct., N.D. CA January 10, 2010 and February 4, 2010)
Case history
Appealed toUnited States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Jewel v. National Security Agency is a United States class action lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against the National Security Agency (NSA) and several high-ranking officials in the administration of 43rd U.S. president George W. Bush,[1] charging an "illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance".[2]


The case was filed on behalf of Carolyn Jewel and several other AT&T customers on September 18, 2008, and is based on documentation provided by former AT&T technician Mark Klein.[3]

The case was dismissed on January 21, 2010, by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, who concluded that the plaintiffs lacked legal standing because their claims amounted to a "general grievance" against the government.[4] On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the case on December 29, 2011.[5] NSA whistleblower William Binney testified in July 2012 in support of the EFF that the NSA was "purposefully violating the Constitution".[6] On July 8, 2013, Judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California declined to dismiss the lawsuit under the state secrets privilege.[7] Later in 2013 the court ordered the government to explain the effects of intelligence leaks about the NSA's surveillance activities, primarily by Edward Snowden, on the national security impact of the case. The NSA reasserted the state secrets privilege on December 20, 2013, and declassified portions of its assertions of the state secrets privilege the following day.[8][9]

On March 10, 2014, Judge White imposed a temporary restraining order, requiring the NSA and other parties to halt the destruction of evidence until a final resolution of the case.[10] On June 5, 2014, the EFF filed a motion for an emergency hearing requesting that the court enforce this temporary restraining order after discovering that the government had continued the destruction of evidence.[11] A motion filed by the government claimed that doing so would have severe consequences "including the possible suspension of the Section 702 program and potential loss of access to lawfully collected signals intelligence information on foreign intelligence targets".[12]

On February 10, 2015, Judge White dismissed a challenge by the plaintiffs of the constitutionality of the UPSTREAM data collection program. The court ruled that the challenge would require the "impermissible disclosure of state secret information",[13] and also ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue their claims. The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the NSA's collection of Internet and phone content. Judge White also wrote that some of the EFF's factual allegations about the program were not correct, but did not identify any specific inaccuracies.[14]

On May 19, 2017, Judge White ordered[15] the government to provide "all relevant evidence necessary to prove or deny that plaintiffs were subject to NSA surveillance via tapping into the Internet backbone".[16]

On April 25, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the government summary judgement.[17] This was upheld on August 17, 2021 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on grounds of lack of standing.[18]

On June 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court rejected the EFF's appeal, allowing the ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to stand.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mullins, K. J. (September 20, 2008). "Jewel v. NSA Aims To Stop Illegal Surveillance". Digital Journal. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  2. ^ "Jewel v. National Security Agency (copy of complaint)" (PDF). Electronic Frontier Foundation. September 18, 2008. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  3. ^ Kravets, David (July 15, 2009). "Obama Claims Immunity, As New Spy Case Takes Center Stage". Wired. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  4. ^ Kravets, David (January 22, 2010). "Judge Tosses NSA Spy Cases". Wired. Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  5. ^ Jeralyn (December 29, 2011). "9th Circuit Allows Wiretap Suit Against NSA to Proceed". Retrieved December 30, 2011.
  6. ^ "Sworn Declaration of Whistleblower William Binney on NSA Domestic Surveillance Capabilities". Public Intelligence. July 16, 2012.
  7. ^ McCullagh, Declan (July 8, 2013). "Judge: Lawsuit alleging illegal NSA spying may continue". CNET.
  8. ^ Savage, Charlie; Sanger, David. E (December 21, 2013). "White House Tries to Prevent Judge From Ruling on Surveillance Efforts". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "DNI Announces the Declassification of the Existence of Collection Activities Authorized by President George W. Bush Shortly After the Attacks of September 11, 2001". IC ON THE RECORD. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. December 21, 2013.
  10. ^ "Order Granting Temporary Restraining Order".
  11. ^ "Plaintiff's Emergency Request to Enforce the Court's Temporary Restraining Order" (PDF).
  12. ^[bare URL PDF]
  13. ^ Hattern, Julian (February 10, 2015). "Court upholds NSA snooping". The Hill.
  14. ^ Volz, Dustin (February 10, 2015). "Judge Dismisses Challenge to NSA Internet Surveillance". National Journal.
  15. ^ "CIVIL MINUTE ORDER" (PDF). Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  16. ^ "Judge Orders Government to Provide Evidence About Internet Surveillance". May 23, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  17. ^ "Jewel v. NSA - Order granting government's summary judgment motion". April 25, 2019.
  18. ^ "Jewel v. NSA - 9th Circuit Opinion (August 17, 2021)". August 17, 2021.
  19. ^ Cohn, Cindy (June 13, 2022). "EFF's Flagship Jewel v. NSA Dragnet Spying Case Rejected by the Supreme Court". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved June 18, 2022.

External links[edit]