News / USA

    US Judge Says NSA Phone Surveillance Lawful

    An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
    x
    An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
    An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
    Reuters
    A federal judge ruled that a National Security Agency program that collects records of millions of Americans' phone calls is lawful, calling it a “counter-punch” to terrorism that does not violate Americans' privacy rights.
     
    Friday's decision by U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan diverged from a ruling by another judge this month that questioned the program's constitutionality, raising the prospect that the Supreme Court will need to resolve the issue.
     
    In a 54-page decision, Pauley dismissed an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit contending that the NSA collection of “bulk telephony metadata” violated the bar against warrantless searches under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
     
    The judge also referred often to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which nearly 3,000 people died, and said broad counter-terrorism programs such as the NSA's could help avoid a “horrific” repeat of those events.
     
    “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.”
     
    The program's existence was first disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is now in Russia under temporary asylum. His leaks have sparked a debate over how much leeway to give the government in protecting Americans from terrorism.
     
    ACLU plans appeal
     
    Pauley ruled 11 days after U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C. said the “almost Orwellian” NSA program amounted to an “indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion” that was likely unconstitutional.
     
    Leon also ordered the government to stop collecting call data on the two plaintiffs in that case, but suspended that portion of his decision so the government could appeal.
     
    The ACLU has argued before Pauley that the NSA program was an unwarranted “dramatic expansion” of the government's investigative powers over Americans' day-to-day lives.
     
    Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, on Friday said the group was “extremely disappointed” with Pauley's decision, saying it does away with “core constitutional protections. He said the ACLU will appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.
     
    White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment. U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr said the department is pleased with the decision.
     
    Stephen Vladeck, an American University law professor who specializes in national security, said if federal appeals courts in New York or Washington, D.C. ultimately accept Leon's analysis, “then it seems likely, if not certain, that this case will get to the (Supreme Court) by the end of next year.”
     
    President Barack Obama has defended the surveillance program but has indicated a willingness to consider constraints, including whether to give control of metadata to phone companies or other third parties. Intelligence officials have said this could prove costly and slow investigations.
     
    On Dec. 18, a White House-appointed panel proposed curbs on some NSA surveillance operations.
     
    It said that because intelligence agencies could not point to specific cases where telephony metadata collection led to a major counter-terrorism success, the intrusiveness of such intelligence gathering might outweigh the public benefit.
     
    Obama is expected next month to set forth his own proposals for possible surveillance reforms.
     
    Rubber stamp, or vital weapon?
     

    In rejecting the ACLU motion for a preliminary injunction to block the NSA program, Pauley said the public interest tilted “firmly” toward the government, for which combating terrorism “is an urgent objective of the highest order.”
     
    While acknowledging that the program “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States,” he said its constitutionality “is ultimately a question of reasonableness.”
     
    Pauley added that he found no evidence that the government had used bulk telephony metadata for any reason other than to investigate and disrupt terrorist attacks.
     
    The program also faces a legal challenge by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a data privacy group. In a statement, the group said it was “obviously disappointed” with Pauley's decision, but that it would continue pursuing its own cases.
     
    Larry Klayman, a conservative legal activist who brought the case before Judge Leon, called Pauley's ruling “an outrageous decision that ignores the legitimate fears of the American people and in effect rubber stamps a police state.”
     
    Pauley was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton. Leon was appointed by President George W. Bush.
     
    Both cases interpreted a 1979 Supreme Court decision, Smith v. Maryland, that said people have no “legitimate expectation of privacy” regarding phone numbers they dial because they knowingly give that information to phone companies.
     
    While Leon said Smith's relevance had been “eclipsed” by technological advances and the advent of cell phones, Pauley said this did not undermine the finding that people have “no subjective expectation of privacy in telephony metadata.”
     
    Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterintelligence & Terrorism, in a statement said Pauley's decision “preserves a vital weapon for the United States in our war against international terrorism.”
     
    The case is American Civil Liberties Union et al v. Clapper et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 13-03994.

    You May Like

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves in Landmark Discovery

    Researchers likened discovery to difference between looking at piece of music on paper and then hearing it in real life

    Prince Ali: FIFA Politics Affected International Fixtures

    Some countries faced unfavorable treatment for not toeing political line inside soccer world body, Jordanian candidate to head FIFA says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.