NRA joins ACLU in suit against NSA's surveillance program

Looking to protect gun owners' privacy, the NRA files a brief supporting the ACLU's lawsuit aimed at halting the NSA's spying program.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Now here's an unlikely duo: the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association.

The two have bonded in their fight against the National Security Agency's mass spying program that came to light in June. The NRA joined the ACLU's lawsuit against the government agency on Wednesday by filing a "friend of the court" legal brief.

"The mass surveillance program threatens the First Amendment rights of the NRA and its members," the NRA writes in the brief (PDF). "The mass surveillance program could allow identification of NRA members, supporters, potential members, and other persons with whom the NRA communicates, potentially chilling their willingness to communicate with the NRA."

The ACLU filed its lawsuit, ACLU vs. Clapper, in federal court in New York. The suit aims to get a preliminary injunction issued against the NSA that will stop its phone-surveillance program and also force the agency to expunge all of its phone call records.

Besides the NRA, other groups have also signed onto the lawsuit, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom and several news organizations. The ACLU welcomes the array of support.

"The range of voices joining the protest against mass government surveillance -- not to mention the bipartisan storm that has swept Congress since the recent NSA disclosures -- is a real testament to the fact that the government's dragnet surveillance practices are offensive to Americans from across the political spectrum," ACLU communications strategist Noa Yachot wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

The NRA claims that by collecting phone records from NRA members, the government is in effect building an illegal "national gun registry." In its brief, the gun lobby group urges the court to issue the preliminary injunction against the NSA.

"The mass surveillance program could allow the government to circumvent legal protections for Americans' privacy, such as laws that guard against the registration of guns or gun owners," the NRA brief reads. "If programs like those currently justified by the government's interpretation are allowed to continue and grow unchecked, they could also -- contrary to clear congressional intent -- undo decades of legal protection for the privacy of Americans in general, and of gun owners in particular."

Oral argument for the ACLU's motion for a preliminary injunction against the NSA is scheduled for November 1.