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Do you have a telephone? Want to join a class action against the NSA? Rand Paul plans to file a class action lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA), and he’s looking for people to join in the suit. He claims that the NSA’s practice of collecting phone records for 100 million people under a single warrant is a violation of the Fourth Amendment — and he plans to take his case all the way to the US Supreme Court.
But Paul is not the only one suing the NSA: two other lawsuits have recently challenged NSA telephone surveillance practices. On December 16th, the District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the NSA to stop collecting the telephone metadata of the plaintiffs who brought the suit. Judge Richard Leon called the NSA’s practices “almost Orwellian.” Not surprisingly, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and NSA Director Keith Alexander have appealed this ruling.
Just 11 days after Judge Leon’s ruling, however, Judge William Pauley in New York upheld the NSA’s metadata collection programs. The American Civil Liberties Union brought the New York case, and it has announced that it, too, will appeal the court’s ruling.
Scholars who followed the two cases have noted that Judge Pauley seemed to rule in the opposite way as Judge Leon on nearly every substantive issue. The main areas of dispute were the value of the information collected by the NSA, the nature of the personal privacy interests at stake, and the reach of Fourth Amendment protections. Judge Pauley emphasized that the data collection programs were important protections against terrorist attacks, and such programs could have provided critical information about the September 11th attacks that occurred only a few blocks from the courthouse. Judge Leon, on the other hand, wrote that the NSA failed to show a case where the programs helped prevent a time-sensitive attack.
Adding another voice to the fray, President Obama set up a review board to asses and give recommendations on the NSA’s surveillance program. The board remarked that metadata collection was “not essential“ to protecting American security, and the board issued nearly 50 recommendations [PDF] to reform the NSA programs.
The NSA’s surveillance programs have received much attention following disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Currently, both courts and the public are split on how they view the programs. Rand Paul wants to settle the issue in the Supreme Court, and the Court may just oblige.
Tagged with: ACLU • Barack Obama • domestic surveillance • Edward Snowden • Eric Holder • expectation of privacy • Fourth Amendment • Keith Alexander • lawsuits • metadata • NSA • privacy • Rand Paul • Richard Leon • September 11 2001 • Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) • surveillance • U.S. Constitution • William Pauley
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