The government gets a victory in a case brought by the ACLU, which charged that the spy agency was violating Americans’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.
December 27, 2013 9:29 AM PST
(Credit: Declan McCullagh/CNET)
A US district judge on Friday dismissed the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the government’s top spy agency, ruling that bulk collection of telephony metadata by the NSA is lawful.
In June, the ACLU filed suit to challenge 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 ACLU sought a preliminary injunction to stop the government’s phone-surveillance program and to have all of the collected data deleted.
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In his ruling Friday in ACLU vs. James R. Clapper, US District Judge William Pauley cited the NSA’s inability to connect the telephone dots ahead of the September 11th terrorist attacks. “[Al-Qaeda’s plot] succeeded because conventional intelligence gathering could not detect diffuse filaments connecting al-Qaeda,” he wrote.
“No doubt, the bulk telephony metadata collection program vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States,” Pauley said in his conclusion. “That is by design, as it allows the NSA to detect relationships so attenuated and ephemeral they would otherwise escape notice.
As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific.”
Friday’s ruling in favor of the government’s surveillance program comes two weeks after a judge in a separate case reached an opposite conclusion, that the NSA’s bulk collection of telephony metadata was “likely unconstitutional.”
In that case, Klayman vs. Obama, Judge Richard Leon issued preliminary injunctions to halt the NSA’s telephony metadata collection and to have the data already collected be destroyed, but stayed the ruling to allow for appeals.
Pauley’s decision is embedded below.