Feeds

Slurp away, NSA: Mass phone data collection IS legal, rules federal judge

Inter-court fracas means the Supremes will have to dust off robes

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A US federal judge has ruled that the NSA is within its rights to harvest millions of innocent Americans' telephone call records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act – and that the dragnet is fine under the Fourth Amendment since the data was collected by a third-party telco, not the government.

The decision kicks the debate over the legality of the intelligence agency's controversial mass-surveillance operations closer to the Supreme Court.

"Robust discussions are underway 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. This court finds it is," said US District Judge William Pauley in his ruling today.

The court case was filed by civil-rights campaigners the ACLU in June, less than a week after the first document released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that Verizon was supplying metadata on US mobile phone calls. As Verizon subscribers, the ACLU sued to get the snooping stopped with an injunction.

"We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government's surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections," said ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer.

"As another federal judge and the president's own review group concluded last week, the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephony data constitutes a serious invasion of Americans' privacy. We intend to appeal and look forward to making our case in the Second Circuit."

In his ruling Judge Pauley said that surveillance techniques such as those deployed by the NSA were necessary to stop terrorism, citing three cases where such data had been used to stop bomb attacks on the New York subway system, stock exchange, and other targets.

"Like the 911 Commission observed: the choice between liberty and security is a false one, as nothing is more apt to imperil civil liberties than the success of a terrorist attack on American soil," he wrote.

"A court's solemn duty is 'to reject as false, claims in the name of civil liberty which, if granted, would paralyze or impair authority to defend [the] existence of our society, and to reject as false, claims in the name of security which would undermine our freedoms and open the way to oppression."

Judge Pauley's reasoning contrasts sharply with the December 16 ruling from District of Columbia Judge Richard J Leon, also on the legality of the Verizon data slurp. The judge described the NSA's systems as "almost Orwellian," and said he wasn't convinced about the government's claims that such data was needed for rapid-response anti-terrorism. Judge Leon was ruling in a lawsuit brought against the Obama administration by lawyer Larry Klayman and other privacy campaigners.

In both cases the judges gave leave to appeal, and it now looks certain that the Supreme Court will have to rule on the matter. How quickly it does so is largely up to the nine-person panel itself, but it seems likely that the court will rule sooner rather than later. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
Sony says year's losses will be FOUR TIMES DEEPER than thought
Losses of more than $2 BILLION loom over troubled Japanese corp
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.