The American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday it had filed a lawsuit on behalf of organizations including the Wikimedia Foundation and the conservative Rutherford Institute against the National Security Agency and the Department of Justice challenging the government's mass surveillance program.
The lawsuit alleges that the NSA's mass surveillance of internet traffic, often called "upstream" surveillance, violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects freedom of speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure.
The NSA's upstream surveillance program captures communications with "non-U.S. persons" in order to acquire foreign intelligence information.
"This kind of dragnet surveillance constitutes a massive invasion of privacy, and it undermines the freedoms of expression and inquiry as well," ACLU Staff Attorney Patrick Toomey said in a statement.
Organizations party to the lawsuit also include Amnesty International USA, PEN American Center, the Nation magazine, Human Rights Watch, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Global Fund for Women, and Washington Office on Latin America.
"By tapping the backbone of the internet, the NSA is straining the backbone of democracy," Lila Tretikov, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, wrote in a blog post.
The lawsuit follows the ACLU's failed attempt in 2013 to challenge the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, which was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that the plaintiffs could not prove that they had been spied on.
The NSA's current practices exceed the authority granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Congress amended in 2008, Wikimedia said.
"We are asking the court to order an end to the NSA's dragnet surveillance of internet traffic," Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
Major U.S. technology companies suffering from the fallout of the NSA's mass surveillance programs are also uniting to shore up their defenses against government intrusion.
The NSA and the DoJ did not immediately respond to requests for comment.