December 27, 2013

Judge rejects challenge to NSA spying program

He finds that the collection of Americans’ phone records does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

By Sari Horwitz
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

This June 6, 2013 file photo shows a sign outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. A civil rights lawyer says the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is very disappointed that a New York judge has found that a government program that collects millions of Americans’ telephone records is legal.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

In a Dec. 16 ruling, however, a District of Columbia federal judge rejected the government’s arguments in a strongly worded ruling that said the program “infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

In that opinion in the case Klayman v. Obama, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon granted a request for an injunction that blocked the collection of the phone data of conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. Klayman brought his lawsuit against the president with a co-plaintiff, Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange, a slain Navy cryptologic technician who was killed with a SEAL team in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Leon stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal. Leon was nominated to the U.S. District Court in Washington in 2002 by President George W. Bush, while Pauley, who upheld the NSA program, was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1998 by President Bill Clinton.

“Judge Leon’s ruling is a dream ruling for the ACLU. And Judge Pauley’s opinion is the dream ruling for the NSA,” said Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “Substantively and rhetorically, they are really different. Point and counterpoint.”

Kerr also said that the appellate precedents are different in Washington and in New York, so that both courts could be correct on their interpretation of Fourth Amendment issues for their jurisdictions.

“Both of the opinions are just grist for the mill for the appeals courts,” Kerr said.

As the issue plays out in the courts, Congress is debating whether the NSA’s powers should be curtailed. A panel appointed by President Barack Obama recommended that the NSA should no longer store the data. Obama said that in January he will make a statement on what NSA reforms he supports.

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