The National Security Agency’s mass collection of telephone data does not violate the constitution, ruled U.S. District Judge William Pauley in New York City, creating a conflict within the federal courts and increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will have to resolve the program’s fate, the Los Angeles Times reports. The decision bolsters the NSA’s position just as President Obama is considering whether to impose new restrictions on the spy agency.
Pauley called the NSA’s surveillance programs part of the “government’s counterpunch” against the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which he said happened in part because of a failure to “connect the dots” linking terrorists. “The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy, a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” he wrote. At issue is the NSA’s collection of “metadata” from virtually all telephone calls made within or from the U.S. “When a person voluntarily conveys information to a third party, he forfeits his right to privacy in the information,” Pauley wrote. Less than two weeks ago, the NSA’s critics celebrated a victory in federal court as a district judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the wholesale collection of metadata did violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches.