The ruling by U.S. District Judge William Pauley (Manhattan) in favor of the NSA conflicts with last week’s ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that NSA’s mass call-tracking program violates the Fourth Amendment. Concerned with the erosion of privacy, the ACLU plans to appeal Pauley’s ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The National Security Agency (NSA) program that collects records of phone calls is perfectly legal. So says a federal judge in a ruling on a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the surveillance program.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on June 11, 2013, less than a week after the mass call-tracking program was revealed by The Guardian newspaper. The report was based on documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The federal court issued an opinion and order in ACLU v. Clapper, ruling that the government’s bulk collection of phone records is lawful under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and under the Fourth Amendment. The court denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and granted the government’s motion to dismiss the case.
A Conflicting Ruling
The program, “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said in his 54-page decision. He also ruled that whether or not the program is constitutional is “ultimately a question of reasonableness” and found no evidence that the U.S. government had relied on “bulk telephony metadata” for any reason beyond investigating potential terrorist attacks.
“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.”
Pauley’s ruling conflicts with last week’s ruling by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., that the mass call-tracking program violates the Fourth Amendment. The ACLU plans to appeal the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director.
“As another federal judge and the president’s own review group concluded last week, the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephony data constitutes a serious invasion of Americans’ privacy. We intend to appeal and look forward to making our case in the Second Circuit,” he said.
But Pauley is confident in his ruling. He pointed to the Sept. 11 attacks, which he said demonstrated the cost of missing such a threat and how “horrific” it can be. He said the Sept. 11 attacks, “revealed, in the starkest terms, just how dangerous and interconnected the world is. While Americans depended on technology for the conveniences of modernity, al-Qaida plotted in a seventh-century milieu to use that technology against us. It was a bold jujitsu. And it succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaida.”