Judge’s Order To Shut Down NSA Phone Surveillance Reversed By Federal Appeals Court

A federal appeals court has just ruled against a 2013 decision ordering the NSA to stop its bulk metadata collection program.

The three-judge panel issued its ruling Friday, contending that conservative privacy activist Larry Klayman had not adequately argued the likeliness that his own data had been collected as a part of the metadata collection program.

Judge Stephen Williams wrote that the plaintiffs “claim to suffer from government collection of records from their telecommunications provider relating to their calls. But plaintiffs are subscribers of Verizon Wireless, not of Verizon Business Network Services, Inc.—the sole provider that the government has acknowledged targeting for bulk data collection.”

Judge Janice Rogers Brown’s separate opinion stated that the plaintiffs had failed to show a “‘concrete and particularized’ injury” in regards to the NSA program. Brown ended her opinion quoting Daniel P. Moynihan’s book Secrecy: The American Experience. “Regulations of this sort may frustrate the inquisitive citizen but that does not make them illegal or illegitimate. Excessive secrecy limits needed criticism and debate. Effective secrecy ensures the perpetuation of our institutions.’’

This court decision’s importance really isn’t as critical as it would have been before the recent legislation passed in Congress, as today’s ruling is more procedural and doesn’t touch on the program’s constitutionality. The law passed by Congress allows bulk phone data collection to continue until the end of the year, but it severely scales back the NSA’s phone surveillance program thereafter.