A U.S. Federal Judge has ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance programs are legal, reversing an earlier ruling declaring the monitoring program illegal. The new ruling cites the need to fight terrorist threats and that the surveillance program is in the public interest.
Federal Judge’s ruling on NSA program
The ruling by New York District Judge William Pauley overturns an earlier ruling by Federal Judge Richard Leon that the NSA program was illegal. Judge Leon argued that the program violated the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and was Orwellian in nature. Judge Pauley stayed his ruling, however, so the government had a chance to appeal before being forced to shut down or modify its programs.
Judge Pauley agreed that people are protected by the 4th Amendment, however, that this protection is not absolute. He argued that the program was in the public interest, and therefore Constitutional. He also pointed out that people willingly surrender personal data and information to corporations and other organizations, which in his opinion is far more intrusive.
The program in question traces every phone call made in the United States, tracking the date and time, as well as the number called. This is then compared against a database of known terrorists to monitor for suspicious activities. The program does not “tap wires” or monitor the actual conversations themselves, but instead keeps a log of activities.
Activists vow to fight on
Both conservative and liberal activists have been taking aim at the NSA’s sweeping monitoring programs. The Constitutional validity of the program is questionable, however, activists may have trouble defeating it in court. The government could argue that it is not seizing or even searching anything through the program, but instead simply tracing interactions. The government could argue that this is not, in fact, an invasion of privacy.
The American Civil Liberties Union has vowed to appeal the recent ruling. According to the ACLU, the ruling misinterpreted relevant statues. The ACLU also believes that Judge Pauley misapplied a “narrow and outdated” precedent and ignored core Constitutional rights. While the ACLU will appeal the NSA’s programs will continue unhindered.
Obama administration welcomes ruling
The Obama administration, unsurprisingly, welcomed the ruling. While most of the NSA’s programs were started under George W. Bush, the extent and details of the programs did not become public until the Snowden leaks this past summer. It quickly became apparent that the programs were given the green light to continue under the Obama administration.
Obama has since come under heavy fire, with critics and former supporters alike blasting his lack of transparency. When Obama came into office, he promised a more open government that did not use fear to get its way. Now, many have come to question the sincerity of those statements as the government’s security programs remain opaque and relatively unchanged.