NSA Dragnet Fight Will Return to Second Circuit

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion on Tuesday urging the Second Circuit to issue an injunction halting the National Security Agency’s program scooping up millions of Americans’ telephone data.
     “This dragnet surveillance program should never have been launched, and it should certainly be terminated now,” the group’s legal director, Jameel Jaffer, said in a statement.
     “Not even the government contends anymore that the program has been effective, and the Second Circuit has already concluded that the program is illegal,” Jaffer continued.
     On May 7, a three-judge panel unanimously found that Section 215 of the Patriot Act did not authorize the NSA’s telephone-data collection program, as the government had long insisted.
     Rather than blocking the program outright, however, the court decided to allow Congress to determine whether to expand the government’s surveillance powers before Section 215 expired on June 1.
     Instead of clarifying the matter, Congress sparked another controversy with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which gave the government a 180-day transition period before it goes into effect on Nov. 29.
     The government interpreted this clause as giving the NSA a window to continue with the same program that the Second Circuit had recently found illegal.
     Late last month, a judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court endorsed that view, and the ACLU immediately vowed to return to New York to continue its fight.
     Following through on that promise, the ACLU claims that the government and the FISC disregarded the statute’s language that “[n]othing in this act shall be construed to alter or eliminate” the government’s power during the transition period.
     Congress has spoken, and the government’s position lost, the rights group says.
     “The legislative debate to which this court deferred has now come and gone,” Jaffer wrote in a 16-page motion for an injunction. “Although it considered doing so, Congress did not expand the government’s statutory authority to permit bulk collection of call records. The government continues to collect call records in bulk, however, based on the same statutory language this court has already held does not permit it.”
     Requesting “urgent” relief, the ACLU says that they need to protect their “sensitive associations and communications.”
     “The chill on whistle-blowers and others who would otherwise contact plaintiffs … is also immediate and irremediable,” the motion states. “The government’s queries of its call-records data base compound plaintiffs’ injury because each of those queries involves an analysis of plaintiffs’ records to determine whether Plaintiffs have been in contact with the government’s surveillance targets.”
     ACLU lawyers represent former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who first brought the government’s bulk phone-data collection to light two years ago.
     The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

%d bloggers like this: