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US judge rules NSA phone surveillance program is legal

A United States federal judge said Friday that the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk phone data collection program isn’t against the law.

That ruling came courtesy of US District Judge William Pauley,  who decided in favor of the NSA early Friday in a case filed this  past June by the American Civil Liberties Union against Director  of National Intelligence James Clapper.

Judge Pauley admitted in a decision penned in the Southern  District of New York court that the NSA “vacuums up  information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or  within the United States,” but that no evidence exists that  the spy agency abuses this program to spy on people without ties  to terrorism organizations.

“There is no evidence that the government has used any of the  bulk telephony metadata it collected for any purpose other than  investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks,” Pauley  wrote towards the end of his 54-page ruling.

The ACLU filed their lawsuit in June of this year just hours  after reports revealed that the US government has been regularly  compelling telecommunication companies for the basic call records  pertaining to millions of Americans.

“Because the NSA’s aggregation of metadata constitutes an  invasion of privacy and an unreasonable search, it is  unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment,” the ACLU  alleged when the filed suit. “The call-tracking program also  violates the First Amendment, because it vacuums up sensitive  information about associational and expressive activity.”

Judge Pauley acknowledged in his ruling that the program does  indeed slurp up massive amounts of sensitive data, but insisted  abuse has been infrequent and excusable given the advantages of  the alleged counterterrorism tool.

Less than two weeks ago, District Judge Richard Leon issued a  grossly different decision while weighing in on a similar case  filed by plaintiffs in the US District Court for the District of  Columbia.

“Because the government can use daily metadata  collection to engage in ‘repetitive, surreptitious surveillance  of a citizen’s private goings on,’ the NSA database ‘implicated  the Fourth Amendment each time a government official monitors  it,” Judge Leon ruled.

In the ACLU v Clapper case, however, Pauley said “Whether the  Fourth Amendment protects bulk telephony metadata is ultimately a  question of reasonableness.”



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