News / USA

US Likely to Appeal Surveillance Ruling

FILE - An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
FILE - An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.
Matthew HilburnKen Bredemeier
The U.S. government is expected to appeal a judge's ruling that the National Security Agency's secret collection of telephone records from millions of Americans is likely unconstitutional.

The decision has triggered new conjecture about the legality of U.S. surveillance. Former national security contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a vast trove of details about the U.S. spying before fleeing to asylum in Russia, praised the ruling, but two national security legal experts said in VOA interviews Tuesday that courts could ultimately uphold government surveillance programs.

Robert Turner of the University of Virginia's Center for National Security Law said that a 1979 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the collection of telephone data is still relevant even though cell phones had not been invented at the time, nor their widespread usage throughout the world even imagined.

He compared the government's limited collection of telephone records - the numbers called, and the length and date of them, but not the content - to the much more intrusive searches of travelers at airports. Those searches have been ruled legal, and not a violation of the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of illegal searches of individuals.

"Every court to consider the issue has said that these are lawful searches," said Turner. "They are lawful because in special needs situations, they balance the government's interests against the individual's interests. The courts have consistently ruled that the possibility that an airplane might be destroyed or hijacked outweighs the privacy interests to not be searched of the individuals."

National security expert David Pozen of the Columbia University law school in New York also said Monday's ruling by Judge Richard Leon may not be upheld by a higher court, but could influence other legal cases and lawmakers' consideration of the scope of U.S. surveillance.

"It kind of further legitimated the notion that the NSA was up to something deeply wrong, and I think may - before the courts ultimately decide on the legality of the program - may actually just help spur Congress to revise the program," said Pozen.

In his ruling, Judge Leon said he "cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion" of peoples' privacy than the government's collection of such information without prior judicial approval. In ruling on a court challenge to the surveillance, Leon said the spying "surely" infringes on the U.S. Constitution's prohibition against illegal searches.

Leon did not immediately enforce his ruling, giving the government a chance to appeal the decision to a higher court.

U.S. President Barack Obama met Tuesday with the heads of leading technology companies who have voiced concern about the scope of U.S. surveillance programs.

The White House said Obama talked with the chiefs of Google, Yahoo, Apple, AT&T and other companies about their privacy concerns, as well as ways to improve the government's HealthCare.gov web site.

Snowden leaked information about the telephone data collection earlier this year. It was among the first disclosures in the wave of leaks from the 1.7 million documents that the NSA says Snowden stole before fleeing first to Hong Kong and then to Russia.

One NSA official assessing the damage of the Snowden leaks, Rick Ledgett, told the 60 Minutes TV news program on Sunday that Snowden made off with "the keys to the kingdom."

U.S. officials have sought Snowden's extradition to stand trial on espionage charges, but Russia has refused.

At the White House Monday, a spokesman said Snowden should be returned to the United States as soon as possible to stand trial on charges of leaking the classified information.

Snowden wrote an open letter to the people of Brazil, published Tuesday in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo. In the letter he asks for asylum, the second time he’s done so. He already has requested asylum in a number of other countries.
 
Snowden’s letter said that while some in the Brazilian government asked for his assistance in investigating the extent of U.S. surveillance there, he is unable to because “the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so… Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.”
 
Snowden praises Brazil as “inspiring” because it’s a country that listened to his warning and is leading “the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.”
 
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a state visit to Washington in October because of revelations that the United States monitored her personal communications and those of other Brazilians. Those allegations came from documents leaked by Snowden.

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

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