Reuters is reporting that NRA is joining an ACLU suit against the Obama Administration over NSA surveillance, and being welcomed by the ACLU. You can find NRA’s amicus brief here. From the brief:
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.
Perhaps they know our people a bit too well.
The Supreme Court made clear in NAACP that it had long â€œrecognized the vitalÂ relationship between freedom to associate and privacy in one’s associations.â€ NAACP,Â 357 U.S. at 462. Because of that relationship, the â€œcompelled disclosure of affiliationÂ with groups engaged in advocacy may constitute as effective a restraint on freedom ofÂ associationâ€ as the regulation of lobbying activities or the discriminatory taxation ofÂ certain newspapers. Id. Compulsory disclosure is unconstitutional where groups showÂ that disclosure subjects their members to â€œmanifestations of public hostility,â€ whichÂ would â€œaffect adversely the ability of [groups and their] members to pursue theirÂ collective effort to foster beliefs which they admittedly have the right to advocate,â€Â because the intrusion on privacy â€œmay induce members to withdraw â€¦ and dissuade.
We’ve worked enough gun shows to know there’s a lot of guys who don’t do anything public as a gun owner for fear of identifying themselves as such and ending up on “a list.” That attitude tends to annoy me, but it’s out there, and is not as rare as I wish it were.
Admittedly, some post-NAACP cases have been more deferential to government,Â focusing on the language in NAACP noting membersâ€™ exposure â€œto economic reprisal,Â loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of publicÂ hostilityâ€ and requiring evidence of such harm to strike down disclosure regimes. See,Â e.g., McIntyre v. Ohio, 514 U.S. 334, 379 (1995); Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 69Â (1976).
But the NRA and its members have certainly been subjected to â€œpublic hostility,â€Â from the highest levels of government as well as from the media and other prominentÂ elements of society. Individuals who are concerned about government monitoring of theirÂ communications might well avoid seeking information from a group that has beenÂ accused by the President of the United States of â€œspreading untruths,â€ and by theÂ Presidentâ€™s press secretary of â€œrepugnant and cowardlyâ€ advertising. See Obamaâ€™sÂ Remarks After Senate Gun Votes, The New York Times, April 17, 2013; Michael D.Â Shear, White House Denounces Web Video by N.R.A., The New York Times, January 16,Â 2013. They might also be concerned about associating with a group of which the Vice-President of the National Education Association has said, â€œ[t]hese guys are going to hell,â€Â or which a journalism professor has accused of committing â€œtreason â€¦ worthy of theÂ firing squad.â€
At root, I’m wondering if NRA’s concern is the Obama Administration using what they find to punish political enemies (namely NRA, it’s members and its employees). Before, I would have said that was crazy talk, but these days, quite sadly, it is not.
Each of these programs standing on its own could provide the government with anÂ extraordinary amount of information about those who communicate with the NRA forÂ any reason. Under the programs revealed so far, the government may already possessÂ information about everyone who has called the NRA by phone, e-mailed the NRA, orÂ visited the NRAâ€™s website. Conversely, the same programs would also gather informationÂ on potential members or donors contacted by phone or e-mail for NRA membershipÂ recruitment or fundraising programs, or for legislative or political reasons such as theÂ transmission of legislative alerts or get-out-the-vote messages. The programs could alsoÂ reveal at least the outlines of research and advocacy activities undertaken by NRA staffÂ members, such as the websites visited in the course of legislative analysis or the identitiesÂ of legislative staff members contacted by e-mail. At the outer extreme, a location trackingÂ program could reveal the identity of every mobile phone user who visits the NRAâ€™sÂ headquartersâ€”whether for a political or legislative event, or simply to use the NRAâ€™sÂ shooting range or visit its National Firearms Museum. Similarly, location-trackingÂ surveillance could reveal the travels of NRA staff members to engage in legislativeÂ meetings, political events, or other activities protected by the First Amendment.Â Any ofÂ these forms of tracking could easily reduce individualsâ€™ desire to interact with the NRA.
Personally, my reaction would be the opposite. If I knew Barry was watching, I’d be pleased to head down to NRA HQ and walk out a nice “F you” pattern. But this is by far not the only concern. The whole brief is worth reading, if you’re interested. The brief also notes, “The governmentâ€™s interpretation of Section 215 would nullify statutory protections against centralization of gun ownership records.” Read the whole thing.