(Long Island, NY) Today, a New York Federal Judge ruled in a 54 page written memorandum and order that the controversial metadata gathering process used by the National Security Agency is indeed legal and specifically authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) law.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a written opinion that the program only works because it collects everything. Photo: National Security Agency Headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Wikimedia Commons.
The program, widely criticized when made public recently by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden,“only works because it collects everything,” U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in his decision. “The collection is broad, but the scope of counter-terrorism investigations is unprecedented.”
In regards to privacy, metadata includes only phone numbers from device A to device B, and does not identify individual persons or identify subscribers to device A or B. It includes limited information, for instance, the numbers dialed, date, time and duration of calls. Metadata, as in the numbers pressed do not belong to the dialer once this information is transferred to a third party (a telephone provide such as Verizon or AT&T); a person forfeits those records and should have no reasonable expectation of privacy.
It was also reiterated a number of times that the records do not identify any specific person and any search of those records has appropriate oversight.
In June of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records, arguing that the practice violates Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights. The group sought a preliminary injunction to stop the government’s phone-surveillance program and to have all of the collected data deleted.
The business records created by Verizon are not “Plaintiff’s call records”. Those records are created and maintained by the telecommunications provider, not the ACLU. Under the Constitution, that distinction is critical because when a person voluntarily conveys information to a third party, he forfeits his right to privacy in the information.
The Fourth Amendment guarantees that all people shall be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. A ‘search’ occurs for purposes of the Fourth Amendment when the Government violates a person’s ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.”
The document further notes that the Supreme Court has held individuals have no “legitimate expectation of privacy” regarding the telephone numbers they dial because they knowingly give that information to telephone companies when they dial a number.
The right to be free from searches and seizures is fundamental, but not absolute. As Justice Jackson famously observed: “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide-pact”.
“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,” also including a very lengthy list of reasons throughout the entire document which support the program, striking down every point and every claim made by the ACLU.
“Congress created a secret court that operates in a secret environment to provide oversight of Secret Government activities. While the notion of secret proceedings may seem antithetical to democracy, the Founding Fathers recognized the need for the Government to keep secrets as detailed in the Constitution: “Each house shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time, publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgement require Secrecy.”
The document ends saying “For all of these reasons, the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program is lawful. Accordingly, the Government’s motion to dismiss the complaint is granted and the ACLU’s motion for a preliminary injunction is denied. The Clerk of Court is directed to terminate the motions at ECF Nos. 25 and 32 and to mark this case closed.
The ACLU plans to appeal the ruling saying it is “extremely disappointed”.
ACLU is “extremely disappointed” and plans to appeal federal judge’s ruling Friday that NSA bulk phone data collection is legal.
Disclaimer: News articles on this site may contain opinions of the author, and if opinion, may not necessarily reflect the views of the site itself or the views of the owners of NewsLI.com, Long Island Media Inc., or Long Island Exchange®. For more information on our editorial policies please view our terms of service.