The National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects records of phone calls is perfectly legal. So says a federal judge in a ruling on a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the surveillance program.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on June 11, 2013, less than a week after the mass call-tracking program was revealed by The Guardian newspaper. The report was based on documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The federal court issued an opinion and order in ACLU v. Clapper, ruling that the government’s bulk collection of phone records is lawful under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and under the Fourth Amendment. The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and granted the government’s motion to dismiss the case.
A Conflicting Ruling
The program, “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said in his 54-page decision. He also ruled that whether or not the program is constitutional is “ultimately a question of reasonableness” and found no evidence that the U.S. government had relied on “bulk telephony metadata” for any reason beyond investigating potential terrorist attacks.
"This blunt tool only works because it collects everything," Pauley wrote. "Technology allowed al Qaeda to operate decentralized and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the government's counter-punch."
Pauley’s ruling conflicts with last week’s ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that the mass call-tracking program violates the Fourth Amendment. The ACLU plans to appeal the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director.
“As another federal judge and the president’s own review group concluded last week, the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephony data constitutes a serious invasion of Americans’ privacy. We intend to appeal and look forward to making our case in the Second Circuit,” he said.
But Pauley is confident in his ruling. He pointed to the Sept. 11 attacks, which he said demonstrated the cost of missing such a threat and how “horrific” it can be. He said the Sept. 11 attacks, “revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaida plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaida."
Posted: 2013-12-31 @ 12:24am PT
@R Terry: I agree with you. The only reason the National Security Agency is monitoring 'private' communications is to catch the bad guys… the REALLY bad guys who want to blow up the rest of us. How many times over the past several years have we heard of bomb plots and terrorist plots that have been thwarted because of the government intercepted 'chatter'? Plenty, and I say thank God for the NSA monitoring and the countless lives that have been saved. Yes, I want my privacy to be respected, but I also want to be able to fly on a plane, go to the mall or other public place and not worry about being blown to bits.
Posted: 2013-12-31 @ 12:14am PT
@Jameel Jaffer: You are putting us all on, right? Satire perhaps? Because you said, "this constitutes a "serious" invasion of American's privacy." For all those that are legends of their own minds, I have terrible news for you > The National Security Agency hasn't the least bit of interest in "you". If you are plotting the demise of Americans on US soil, then we could understand the paranoia. NSA is after one thing, the folks that pose a direct threat to our way of life. You know the bad guys that blow up planes, that strap dynamite onto their kids chest and send them off to ride the local subway. Yeah, it is only those guys they are very interested in stopping. I am just not sure what part of "showing a little gratitude" is so darned hard. I leave you with this very difficult question...do take time to answer it, it's a real mind bender.
What would you rather experience? The horrible "feelings" that your privacy is invaded [so traumatic that feeling is, yuck...sue 'em...don't let me feel this way] ..."or"... a sudden loss of cabin pressure, zero gravity, because your flight is headed towards the ground at over 500 mph. Nothing you can do to stop it, but say a last prayer as you realize...your kids are at home waiting for you, all alone. "Hope daddy is coming home now!"
This is not overly dramatic guys & gals. There are folk that hate us passionately and want us and every one in this country to die in horrendous ways, and they devise methods and on a daily basis they plan for this to happen. They are well funded, this is not a drill...it is not an opinion...it is not a prediction...it is happening...NOW. Do you get that?