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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid