News Release

Fourth Circuit Permits Mass Surveillance Lawsuit to Move Forward, but Without the Criminal Defense Bar and All but One Plaintiff

Washington, DC (May 23, 2017) – In March 2015, Wikimedia, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Human Rights Watch, and several other organizations, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland challenging the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass interception and searching of Americans' international Internet communications. The case is captioned Wikimedia, et al. v. NSA. On Oct. 23, 2015, the district court granted a motion by the government to dismiss the case, holding that the group of plaintiffs had not made plausible allegations that their communications were, in fact, being monitored by the NSA. This morning, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, but only as to one plaintiff in the case, Wikimedia itself.

"While NACDL is pleased that this important case can now move forward, we are concerned about the exclusion from the case of the nation's criminal defense bar and the significant interests of its members and their clients," said NACDL President Elect Rick Jones. "The sanctity of attorney-client communications and attorney work product cannot be overstated. Accordingly, NACDL will study this decision and consider its options going forward."

The core issue at hand in this case is the NSA's "upstream" surveillance, which involves tapping into the Internet backbone — the physical infrastructure of high-capacity cables, switches, and routers that carries American persons' online communications with their family, friends, and colleagues, and with the rest of the world. In the course of its surveillance, the NSA intercepts vast amounts of Internet data traffic inside the United States with the help of major telecom companies.

Featured Products


Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.