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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More