A Federal judge has upheld the legality of the NSA collection of millions of American’s telephone records. The legality of the program fell squarely in to the courtroom of a federal judge in New York City. In his ruling he cited 9/11 for making the case for the legality of the collection.
This latest ruling has essentially set the stage for numerous federal appeals to be issued as courts look to find the right amount of balance between national security and protecting individual rights.
In his ruling, The judge, William H. Pauley concluded that the NSA’s program was actually necessary as an important step taken in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. He went on to say that the program enables the government to have the ability to connect fragmented and fleeting communications and “represents the government’s counterpunch to al-Qaida.”
Pauley also expressed the opinion that the program might have thwarted the 9/11 hijackers had it been in place before the attacks. His courtroom is ironically only blocks from where the World Trade Center stood.
Pauley talked about the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks. He said that NSA analysts intercepted phone calls between one of the would-be hijackers and a call he placed to a Yemeni safe house. The analysts mistakingly identified the location of the man who placed the call and concluded that he was still overseas.
“Telephone metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the N.S.A. to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.”
This latest ruling almost entirely contrasts one that was handed down by a judge in Washington, DC just weeks ago.
In that ruling, Judge Richard Leon wrote: “The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”
A Presidential review group staked out a third stance taking the middle ground between the two judge’s contrasting views.
From the New York Times:
[The Presidential review group] said the security agency “believes that on at least a few occasions” the program “has contributed to its efforts to prevent possible terrorist attacks, either in the United States or somewhere else in the world.” But it added that its own review suggested that the program “was not essential to preventing attacks,” and that less intrusive measures would work.
The group recommended that bulk storage of telephone records by the government be halted in favor of “a system in which such metadata is held instead either by private providers or by a private third party.” Access to the data, it said, should require a court order.
Now it is your turn to weigh in. How much is too much? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.