Groups Sue NSA over 'Unconstitutional Dragnet'

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A diverse coalition of 19 groups, ranging from environmental and human rights activists to church leaders, has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency.

They're seeking to put a stop to the agency's electronic surveillance programs on the grounds that they're unconstitutional.

"This lawsuit challenges an illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet electronic surveillance, specifically the bulk acquisition, collection, storage, retention, and searching of telephone communications information," the suit said.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed the suit on behalf of the coalition in a federal court in San Francisco. Several civil liberties groups have also gone to court against the program.

"You don't have to have anything to hide in order to be incensed by the state taking your money to watch everything you're doing," Politico quoted plaintiff Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. "[The] surveillance is offensive in itself."

The suit comes as intelligence officials prepare to appear before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The committee is seeking more answers about the agency's vast, invasive surveillance programs.

Republicans and Democrats alike are still angry over the revelation that the NSA gathered a wide swatch of phone and Internet records.

In a statement prepared for the hearing, the committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said they never envisioned or sanctioned the "sweeping surveillance" of American citizens.

"Over the past decade -- under the leadership of four chairmen with diverse political views -- the members of this committee have vigorously debated the proper balance between our safety and our constitutional right to privacy," Conyers, the committee's ranking Democrat, said in a pre-hearing statement.

"We never at any point in this debate approved the type of unchecked, sweeping surveillance of United States citizens employed by our government in the name of fighting the war on terrorism," he said.

Meanwhile, the man behind the NSA security leaks is seeking temporary asylum in Russia.

Edward Snowden has been trapped in a Moscow airport for three weeks.

President Vladimir Putin said he's warned Snowden not to do anything that could damage the relationship between Moscow and Washington.

But granting him asylum would add new tensions between the two countries. The United States wants Snowden returned to face prosecution for espionage.

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