A U.S. District Judge ruled that the National Security Agency’s phone-record-collection program is constitutional [PDF]. “The right to be free from searches and seizures is fundamental, but not absolute,” New York’s Judge William Pauley wrote.
This stands in direct contrast to a decision earlier this month declaring the very same program is likely unconstitutional. “We are pleased with the decision,” said Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr.
In essence, Pauley was convinced that countermeasures to investigate terror plots justified mass collection of data.
The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.
He went a bit further, arguing that collection from private firms was likely more invasive, yet few consumers care. The government, moreover, has only had isolated instances of abuse.
Every day, people voluntarily surrender personal and seemingly-private information to trans-national corporations, which exploit that data for profit. Few think twice about it, even though it is far more intrusive than bulk telephony metadata collection. There is no evidence that the government has used any of bulk telephony metadata it collected for any purpose other than investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks. While there have been unintentional violations of guidelines, those appear to stem from human error and the incredibly complex computer programs that support this vital tool. And once detected, those violations were self-reported and stopped.
As I’ve noted before, ultimately, these decisions will likely have to be decided by the Supreme Court. Or Congress could decide to end bulk collection sooner.
The short of it is that, practically speaking, this decision won’t mean much, but could provide compelling arguments for the Supreme Court, should it decide on the controversial practice.
Until then, please have a wonderful holiday weekend and feel free to enjoy this joke.