NSA collection of phone data is lawful, federal judge rules

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Of course this Federal Judge is not the final arbiter of this matter but it does put a bit of a damper in Snowden’s “I was right…I’m exonerated” meme.  Thoughts?

Washington Post

A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision conflicts with that of a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against the government early last week, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. The divergent decisions make it more likely that the Supreme Court will make its own ruling.

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Friday the legality of the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, is “ultimately a question of reasonableness,” under the Fourth Amendment and represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Pauley said that if the U.S. government had the phone data collection program before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it could have helped provide critical clues. He said that so-called telephone metadata might have permitted the NSA to notify the FBI that one of the terrorists was calling a Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the government is “pleased the court found the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful.”

In a statement, the ACLU said it intended to appeal the case.

“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relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director.

Pauley’s opinion comes 11 days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the NSA’s collection of bulk telephony metadata is based on “almost-Orwellian technology.”In that opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a request for an injunction that blocked the collection of the phone data of conservative legal activist Larry Klayman and a co-plaintiff. Leon stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

As the issue plays out in the courts, Congress is debating whether the NSA’s sweeping collection of phone data should be curtailed. A panel appointed by President Obama recommended this month the NSA should no longer store the data.


  1. I’ve been struggling with this one for a while and I guess we can only really expect that the CONTENT of a phone call will be private – not the fact that we made or received a phone call. If we want that, you and the recipient will now have to arrange a pay phone protocol.


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