Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA — Challenge to NSA's "Upstream" Surveillance

iStock.com/Rüdiger Wittmann

One of the National Security Agency’s most controversial surveillance programs involves the mass interception of Americans’ international text-based communications at internet chokepoints around the United States, and the subsequent scanning of those communications for “selectors,” or keywords, associated with foreign surveillance targets. The surveillance is not predicated on probable cause or individualized suspicion, and no court reviews the government’s selection of surveillance targets.

With the ACLU, the Knight First Amendment Institute is challenging the lawfulness of this surveillance under the First and Fourth Amendments. The plaintiffs in the suit include legal, educational, media, and human-rights organizations, as well as the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, one of the most-trafficked websites on the internet.

A federal district court dismissed the suit in October 2015, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. On May 23, 2017, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Wikimedia Foundation has standing to challenge the NSA's Upstream surveillance.