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Federal Court Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Is Legal
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While earlier this month, the U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon had ruled that the NSA surveillance program may be unconstitutional, now U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley II has ruled the NSA surveillance program is legal, making the scene ripe for the issue to go before appeals courts.

Pauley said that the data collection program is a vital tool for the government in fighting terrorism. Providing arguments almost bordering on eminent domain, Pauley further added, “The right to be free from searches and seizures is fundamental, but not absolute.”He observed, “Every day, people voluntarily surrender personal and seemingly private information to transnational corporations, which exploit that data for profit. Few think twice about it, even though it is far more intrusive than bulk telephony metadata collection.”

  
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Pauley did not distinguish between what is “private” data and what is “seemingly private,” and why telephone companies who do not directly administer social control through law enforcement should be considered at par with the government.

To support his judgment, Pauley clung to the 1979 Supreme Court decision of Smith v. Maryland and held that individuals have no “legitimate expectation of privacy” concerning the telephone numbers they dial.

However, earlier this month Judge Leone had thoroughly explained why Smith v. Maryland was not applicable to current situations. Leone had observed, “The almost Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979.”

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However, Pauley rejected that argument and said that while people may use their telephones in different manners than they did in 1979, their inherent relationships with telecommunication providers have not changed. Pauley did not sufficiently give weight to the fact that the methods of collecting data has undergone enormous changes – a fact that Leone took into account, but Pauley chose to ignore.





 

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