Sauk Rapids man sues NSA and DHS claiming First Amendment right violations

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A Sauk Rapids resident is suing the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security for violating his First Amendment rights.

The St. Cloud Times reports that Dan McCall filed the lawsuit in federal court in Baltimore after he received cease-and-desist letters from the agencies against merchandise he was producing through his web-based business.

McCall runs from an office in his home. He sells T-shirts, mugs and posters that often contain satirical messages.

McCall received the letters from the agencies after producing T-shirts that used the NSA's official seal while ridiculing the electronic surveillance disclosures. A government watchdog organization known as Public Citizen is assisting McCall in the lawsuit.

The Associated Press reports that received the letters in 2011, but McCall did not find out about them until June, when Zazzle said it was taking down his NSA-inspired items. The report says he has moved those items to another printer.

According to Public Citizen, the NSA said that Zazzle was in violation of the National Security Agency Act of 1959, by selling the merchandise. The act prohibits the "use of the words 'National Security Agency,' the initials, 'NSA," the seal of the National Security Agency, or any colorable imitation of such connection with any merchandise, impersonation, solicitation, or commercial activity in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the impression that such use is approved, endorsed, or authorized by the National Security Agency," without the permission of the NSA.

The organization also said DHS also claimed Zazzle was in violation of a law making it a crime to "mutilate or alter the seal of any department or agency of the United States." The agencies reportedly threatened Zazzle with litigation or criminal prosecution unless McCall's designs were removed.

McCall told the St. Cloud Times on Thursday, "The NSA and DHS claim there are laws specific to them that prohibit you from doing anything with their logo and we don't think that jives with First Amendment rights."

Public Citizen is requesting the court declare that several provisions of the National Security Agency Act cannon be enforced to forbid McCall from displaying the merchandise. They also say that two other laws are unconstitutionally over broad and violate the first Amendment.

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