The NSA Has a Legal Right to Your Phone Records, Says Federal Judge

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 27 2013 1:30 PM

The NSA Has a Legal Right to Your Phone Records, Says Federal Judge

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HONG KONG - 2013: In this handout photo provided by The Guardian, Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, revealed details of top-secret surveillance conducted by the United States' National Security Agency regarding telecom data. (Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images)

Handout

U.S. District Judge William Pauley has ruled the National Security Agency's phone surveillance legal, the Associated Press reports, citing the system as an effective method of counterterrorism. The New York federal judge, in a written statement, had this to say about his decision:

"The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data."

The New York Times also quotes Pauley as saying, “This blunt tool only works because it collects everything."

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The ruling is a dismissal of a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against NSA director James Clapper, and as noted by the Associated Press and Reuters, stands in stark contrast to a ruling from earlier this month by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, "who granted a preliminary injunction against the collecting of phone records of two men who had challenged the program. The Washington jurist said the program likely violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable search."

As of right now, the ACLU has no comment. But at least some people are happy: "We are pleased with the decision," said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.

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