With Lower Courts At Odds, Supreme Court May Hear NSA Metadata Case

CN image kethalexanderCruxial CIO – by Antone Gonsalves

Two federal judges have issued contradictory rulings on the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s massive collection of Americans’ phone data, setting the stage for a final decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III in New York issued a 54-page ruling Friday that said the NSA’s gathering of bulk telephone metadata was lawful and necessary in order to identify callers and recipients of conversations involving terrorists. Metadata includes numbers called, and records of when and how long the calls last.  

“The bulk telephony metadata collection program represents the government’s counter-punch: connecting fragmented and fleeting communications to reconstruct and eliminate al-Qaeda’s terror network,” Paley said.

The ruling came less than two weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington, D.C., found that the systematic collection of call metadata likely violated Americans’ rights to privacy. The contradictory ruling means the Supreme Court will be asked to settle the matter.

Pauley said that if the NSA had such data before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York, it might have helped capture the terrorists before they embarked on their suicide mission. “The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy,” Pauley said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which claimed the program is unconstitutional and sued the government, said it would appeal the ruling.

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relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” Jameel Jaffer, ACLU deputy legal director, said in a statement.

If unchecked, Pauley acknowledged that the scale of NSA data collection, which spans telecommunications and the Internet, “imperils the civil liberties of every citizen.”

“The natural tension between protecting the nation and preserving civil liberty is squarely presented by the government’s bulk telephony metadata collection program,” the judge said.

However, the question of whether the program should be conducted is a decision that must be made by Congress and the president, not the courts, he said.

The NSA’s collection of millions of phone and Internet records was revealed through documents released to select media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The ACLU had argued that the program violated Americans’ rights to privacy under the Fourth Amendment and the rights of free speech and association under the First Amendment.

Pauley ruled that those rights are not absolute and that the government’s actions were reasonable and necessary to fight terrorism.


One thought on “With Lower Courts At Odds, Supreme Court May Hear NSA Metadata Case

  1. We all know of the corruption that takes place in amerika… just more smoke and mirrors…. total b.s. we all know what must take place to be free from our cage…

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