News / USA

Analyst: Court Ruling Will Not Radically Impact US Surveillance

Analyst: Court Ruling Will Not Have Radical Effect on US Surveillancei
December 18, 2013 1:57 PM
The U.S. security surveillance program is in the headlines again, after a U.S. court ruled that secret collecting of telephone records from citizens likely violates the constitution. Some experts say the ruling, which is not final, may not lead to radical change in the controversial practice.
Zlatica Hoke
The U.S. security surveillance program and a former government contractor who leaked details about it are in the headlines again, after a U.S. court ruled that secret collecting of telephone records from American citizens likely violates the U.S. constitution.  Some experts say the ruling, which is not final, may not lead to a radical change in the controversial practice. 

Although the government is expected to appeal the court's ruling, many Americans welcomed it, among them fugitive national security contractor Edward Snowden, who disclosed the practice earlier this year after allegedly stealing 1.7 million documents from the National Security Agency.  In a message from Russia,  which gave him temporary asylum, Snowden said the ruling by a U.S. district judge justifies his disclosures.

Law professor Stephen Vladack at American University in Washington said the ruling will not make much difference in the short term.

"It actually means very little in the short term, because Judge Leon stayed the decision, which means it will have no immediate effect.  And so the government will be able to do tomorrow what it was able to do before Judge [Richard] Leon’s decision," he said.

But Vladack said the decision has symbolic significance because it is the first time that a U.S. federal judge has ruled that the NSA is not only exceeding its authority, but also is violating the constitution when it secretly collects phone records on a massive scale.  He says several court cases have resulted from Snowden's leaks, and so the issue eventually could reach the Supreme Court.

"The Snowden disclosures really were primarily focused on two different programs. The first is the meta-data program when the government was collecting phone records. The second - and perhaps the more significant internationally - is the Prism program where the government is collecting direct content of Internet communications directly from servers outside the United States," stated Vladack.

Vladack said only Congress could curb litigation on the controversial program by deciding whether to provide stronger legal footing for the phone records surveillance or restrict it before the courts do.  So far, lawmakers have been largely unconcerned about the collection of data abroad, but Vladack said Snowden's disclosures may change that.

President Barack Obama has defended the program when confronted by foreign leaders. "We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information," he said.

Obama Tuesday sought to allay concerns about the U.S. surveillance program in a meeting at the White House with leaders of top technology companies. It was not clear if the court's ruling was brought up during the meeting.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Counties Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs