Judge Hears ACLU Challenge to Phone Monitoring by NSA
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union Friday asked Southern District Judge William Pauley (See Profile) to halt the monitoring of phone calls by the National Security Agency. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU urged Pauley to reject the government's broad interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act because to let it stand would create a "dramatic expansion of the government's investigative power."
Co-counsel Alex Abdo said the mere collection of the data itself violated both the First and Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Americans could take little comfort in the government's promise that it would never be abused.
Arguing against an injunction and in favor of the government's motion to dismiss, Assistant Attorney General Stuart Delery told the court that the collection of "telephony metadata" is "allowed by statute and it's constitutional."
Delery also said the ACLU lacked standing to challenge the program because it could not show it was being used to create a "profile" of the ACLU as an organization nor could it demonstrate that people who wanted to contact the organization would be scared away knowing its phone records were being collected. Delery called the analysis of metadata a critical tool to "find connections between known and unknown terrorists."
Delery argued that Congress approved of the program when it voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act, but Pauley asked several questions about whether Congress has been fully informed about the nature or extent of the data collection and he cited a brief filed on behalf of Representative James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who "vehemently disputes" that Congress gave a green light to the program.
Following a hearing that lasted more than two hours, Pauley took the matter under advisement. The case is American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, 13 cv 03994.