Security

Federal judge hands NSA a win for its shady data collection program

NSA Coin from Def Con

Above: The seal of the National Security Agency

Image Credit: Cory Doctorow

A federal court has ruled today that the National Security Agency’s highly controversial phone data collection efforts are legal, and dismissed a lawsuit from civil liberty advocate group ACLU that claimed the agency violated privacy rights.

Today’s ruling is in conflict of a decision by another federal judge earlier this month, who ruled that the NSA program was “likely unconstitutional”.

NSA’s program collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to and from the country, regardless of whether the agency suspects that the data involves a possible threat to national security. Many have argued that the government should obtain a warrant before being granted access to such phone data for this reason alone.

The important thing to note about these federal rulings is that at this point they’re largely only relevant to a handful of specific cases. We’re only now seeing action by the U.S. populace in raising lawsuits against the government, and eventually there will be enough precedent to bring a case all the way up to the Supreme Court for a more direct decision. (Whether the Supreme Court decides to hear any of these cases is another story all together.)

As for today’s case, the ruling was handed down by U.S. district judge William Pauley in New York, who said the NSA’s phone data collection program “represents the government’s counterpunch” to potential terrorist attacks — which is what the NSA has claimed all along.

“While robust discussions are under way across the nation, in Congress, and at the White House, the question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. The court finds it is,” Pauley said in the ruling. “But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide.”

It definitely sounds like judge Pauley believes this is an issue that’s far from over, which should provide some hope to those who believe the NSA’s data collection should end.

Via The Guardian