On Friday, District Judge William Pauley of the Southern District of New York ruled that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records is lawful.
The case, which was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, was dismissed as the judge ruled that Fourth Amendment protections do not extend to records held by third parties, like telecom companies.
Judge Pauley’s opinion, which began by broadly invoking the events of September 11, 2001, contrasts with the opinion of a DC-based district judge, who ruled earlier this month that the widespread NSA surveillance revealed in June by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was unconstitutional due to its broad reach.
The difference of opinion between the two lower courts make it somewhat more likely that the issue will eventually advance to the Supreme Court, notes the New York Times.
In denying the ACLU a preliminary injunction against the NSA’s data collection and granting the government a dismissal of the case, Judge Pauley used two lines of reasoning. First, he wrote that the ACLU had no standing to argue its case against the government in that court, and second, he wrote that the government is within its rights to collect information about people that is held by third parties.
As Pauley wrote :