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Minnesota man wins legal fight over right to parody security agencies

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A Sauk Rapids man is declaring victory in an out of court settlement of his lawsuit against the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Dan McCall, who runs from his home, tells the St. Cloud Times "They basically gave me everything I was asking for. It's a victory for First Amendment rights."

McCall filed his lawsuit with the help of the government watchdog group Public Citizen after the agencies ordered him to stop selling merchandise – shirts, mugs, and hats – bearing slogans satirizing the federal government.

As the Times reports, the NSA objected, for example, to the use of its official seal alongside the slogan "The only part of the government that actually listens."

The agencies sent a cease-and-desist letter to the maker of McCall's merchandise, The Washington Post reports that as part of Tuesday's settlement the NSA is acknowledging that the federal law it cited "does not prohibit ... items intended to parody the NSA."

Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security agrees that the law does not apply to people making a commentary about the agency, the Post says.

A blogger for The Hill quotes a Public Citizen lawyer who worked on the case saying “Citizens shouldn’t have to worry whether criticizing government agencies will get them in trouble or not." Under the settlement the agencies agree to pay McCall $500 to offset his legal costs.

In Public Citizen's statement about the settlement McCall says “I'm glad the case helped reaffirm the right to lampoon our government. I always thought parody was a healthy tradition in American society. It's good to know that it's still legal.”

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