U.S. District Judge Rules NSA Phone Records Spying Is Constitutional

NSA headquarters building

Federal judge says NSA phone records spying is constitutional

The U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled the National Security Administration’s collection of millions of American’s phone records is constitutional on Friday, dismissing an ACLU lawsuit against the NSA. The judge stated the collection of phone records is a legal and valuable tool to fight terrorism that “only works because it collects everything.” He added “The collection is broad, but the scope of counterterrorism investigations is unprecedented.”

The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU after the disclosure of an order which compelled Verizon to turn over metadata for domestic phone calls in documentation provided by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

The decision in this ruling contrasts with that of U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who on December 16th granted a preliminary injunction against the collection of phone records of two men who challenged the program. The NSA data collection can continue, pending an appeal.

Judge Pauley’s ruling relied heavily on the 1979 Smith v. Maryland Supreme Court case, which involved a burglary in Baltimore, and the warrantless use of a device to record numbers dialed by a suspect. This case has been interpreted by the U.S. Government as giving authority to collect all types of metadata, including those never envisioned at the time of its ruling. While Judge Leon’s ruling called the Smith case into question, Judge Pauley’s decision stated that it still remains applicable to our current technology.

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relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director in a statement.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

Photo from nsa.gov

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