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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid