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The Courts Privacy

US Federal Judge Rules NSA Data Collection Legal 511

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-escalate dept.
New submitter CheezburgerBrown . tips this AP report: "A federal judge on Friday found that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records is legal and a valuable part of the nation's arsenal to counter the threat of terrorism. U.S. District Judge William Pauley said in a written opinion (PDF) that the program 'represents the government's counter-punch' to eliminate al-Qaeda's terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications. In ruling, the judge noted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the attacks occurred. '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 said."
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US Federal Judge Rules NSA Data Collection Legal

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  • Time to appeal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by s.petry (762400) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:23PM (#45798089)
    I don't have much confidence that the Supreme Court would rule any differently, especially considering other rulings this supreme court has made. Have to try though, and if not time to start throwing people out of office.
    • Re:Time to appeal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DesertJazz (656328) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:25PM (#45798115) Homepage

      If nothing else I would think this would expedite this to the Supreme Court since there are two conflicting district decisions.

    • by lgw (121541) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:38PM (#45798321) Journal

      I'm guessing the NSA had some juicy details about this judges private life. Guess we'll find out how many of the SCOTUS Justices have secrets they'd sell their souls to keep private.

      It's sad that the people who should most value privacy will rule against it, but that's why pervasive spying is so corrosive - the power just builds and builds.

      • What a nice conspiracy theory you have there.
        • Re: Time to appeal (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Bartles (1198017) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:53PM (#45798513)
          With this administration it's only conspiracy theory until it becomes conspiracy fact.
        • Re: Time to appeal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by jamstar7 (694492) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:05PM (#45798653)

          What a nice conspiracy theory you have there.

          Unless you live in a monastary or a convent all your life, you have something to hide, whether it was cheating on a question on an exam, your neighbor hitting on you while your wife was passed out, something. Just read the FBI files on Martin Luther King Jr. And you think there isn't a damned thick dossier on all the Supremes? Hell, *I* have an FBI file simply because I was in the military and they investigated me for security clearance. I'm not rich, famous, or particularly influential, but that 40 year old file is still in the stacks.

        • Re: Time to appeal (Score:5, Informative)

          by VortexCortex (1117377) <VortexCortex@@@project-retrograde...com> on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:56PM (#45799199)

          What a nice conspiracy theory you have there.

          COINTELPRO [wikipedia.org] is a conspiracy, but it's not just theoretical; TFS shows it's on its way to becoming Law.

          Counter Intelligence Program does what? Discredit and silence "radical subversives" to control the socio-political space. It's not like that's something foreign to the NSA: Hey, let's use porn habits against the "radical" folks we don't like. [techcrunch.com] The civil rights movement was considered "radical". The privacy rights movement -- Eradication of government secrecy --is considered "radical" too. With secrets the people can never trust their governments to be performing in their best interest. A secret oversight committee just moves the problem around. With covert secret programs we can't even be sure they're telling the truth about 9/11 or the Iraq War -- We shouldn't have to wonder if it was only a threat narrative created to leverage the disaster and manufacture consent. [youtube.com]

          Now, here's something interesting: Heart disease and accidents kill four hundred times more people than a 9/11 scale attack every year. [cdc.gov] The flu claims 6 times more lives than a 9/11 scale attack every year. Why isn't there a War on Cars and Cheeseburgers? Why are the DHS, NSA and other anti-terrorist programs consuming such huge amounts of resources when you're 4 times more likely to be struck by lightning? We could save more lives by mandating foam pads on rails and giving away free traction mats for bathtubs since falling down is a far more dangerous threat to American lives than terrorism. So, the government knows the terrorist threat is laughably inconsequential, yet the scaremongers' message of fear echoed all your mainstream news sources, policy maker statements, and judges opinions. Sounds like a fucking conspiracy to me.

          It's silly to excuse malice as ignorance when the "professionals" who's job it is to quantify the terrorist threat are blatantly misrepresenting the threat. You're aware conspiracy is a real thing, right? I'm a rationalist, I attribute degrees of certainty and am never 100% sure of anything; Like any good scientist. It's far more likely the NSA and other agencies are carrying on the COINTELPRO tradition to keep the military industrial complex funded -- As Eisenhower warned us. [youtube.com] Than to believe that agencies tasked with counter intelligence are not doing so, and that everyone in the media, politics, congress, the executive and judicial branches, etc. just never took a look at the numbers.

          The NSA and DHS should be eliminated. Lives do have a cost that is weighed against freedom and expense. Life is dangerous, and certain risks are acceptable: Thus we don't have a ban on Cars, Cheeseburgers, or Freedom Fries even though since 9/11 these claimed 4000 times more lives than 9/11. If anyone is scared of terrorists then they shouldn't be driving, dining out, or go anywhere without a lightning rod. If you really must fund the NSA, DHS, etc. then give them 1/6th what we spend to prevent the flu, that's the rational thing to do. Anything else in the name of protection reeks of deception for ulterior motives, i.e., Conspiracy.

      • Re:Time to appeal (Score:5, Insightful)

        by s.petry (762400) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:46PM (#45798423)
        Well, SCOTUS is already rigged. No need to have conspiracy theories here. There are lists of their horrible rulings so I'm not going to rehash them here.
        • by dtmancom (925636)
          SCOTUS will rule that spying on Americans' phone records is perfectly legal because it is a privacy tax, in that they will take away some of your privacy, and the federal government has the power to levy taxes. It worked for Obamacare, so why the hell not.
      • New York, New York (Score:4, Insightful)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:01PM (#45798609) Homepage Journal

        I'm guessing the NSA had some juicy details about this judges private life.

        I doubt it's that complex - just look at which circuit this guy is in charge of: New York, New York.

        You know, that police city-state on the East Coast, the one where people are regularly shot by cops just for standing in the wrong place, assaulted with chemical weapons for speaking out against the corrupt government, stopped and searched without any regard to the 4th Amendment, arrested for expressing their 2nd Amendment right, and oh yea, tried to ban big fucking sodas.

        Taking all that into account, I'd be surprised if the judge didn't decide in favor of the elite ruling class.

      • Re:Time to appeal (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:02PM (#45798621) Journal

        I'm guessing the NSA had some juicy details about this judges private life. ...which is exactly what Snowden warned us about.

        The NSA will not be stopped by the courts. They routinely violate the constitution, they obey no legal limits to their activities. The only thing that will stop them is pulling the plug altogether. Contact your congressmen and senators, and tell them to abolish this criminal organization.

        -jcr

  • I think (long) this article [newyorker.com] provides the right background.
  • Expected (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nehumanuscrede (624750) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:26PM (#45798125)
    This will bounce back and forth until it reaches the Supreme Court. I'm sure they are already dreading it.

    Were I in possession of the Snowden documents, I would simply wait and see how this plays out. If it simply goes back to "business as usual" for the NSA by being declared completely legal by our bought-and-paid-for judicial system, I would simply pull another juicy document or two out of the pile and add it to the growing pool of public knowledge. Wash, rinse and repeat until the government finally does the right thing ( or you run out of documents I suppose )

    Either way, it's a win for privacy. ( We get a little bit of it back, or learn how much of it we've lost )
  • Valuable how? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chalnoth (1334923) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:27PM (#45798143)
    Even if we disregard the obviously nasty privacy implications, in what way is a completely and utterly ineffective program "valuable"? I mean, come on. This extremely expensive program has stopped precisely zero attacks (source [nbcnews.com]). I seriously hope the ACLU's lawyers are up to the task of arguing the idiocy of this program.
    • Facts don't matter when you're in the middle of a Kool Aid drinking frenzy....

    • Re:Valuable how? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Puls4r (724907) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:07PM (#45798671)
      You're falling into the chasm of rational arguments they are trying to shepard you into. Keep in mind the initial argument. We are protected from having them collect this data. You have already started arguing how the data is valuable. That's exactly what they want you to do, because now if they can prove it's valuable (even in some false manner), they've 'won' that portion of the argument. Always return to the initial argument. You CAN NOT SPY ON AMERICAN CITIZENS LIKE THIS. Regardless of how 'valuable' it might be. It'd be even more valuable to put a chip in each and every one of us to monitor every last thing we do. Then there would never be crime that goes unsolved. Force all foreigners coming in to get the same chip. After all, wouldn't stopping all crime be extremely valuable? This judge was gotten to in some way. Because he ignored the laws and simply started justifying the actions. Don't fall into the trap of changing the basis of the argument. It's illegal. Leave my information alone unless I give it to you.
  • Useful vs Legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:27PM (#45798149)

    How does if something is useful or not have any bearing on if it's legal or not?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The constitution says no un-reasonable searches.
      An argument for reasonableness is that usefulness outweighs intrusiveness.

      The thing is that now that this program is widely known, the bad guys will just adjust their tactics.
      The guys who did 9/11 could likely have avoided being caught by this system.
      The recent judge's ruling seems to ignore adjustments to tactics.

      Another reasonableness question is does this system cause an unhealthy imbalance of power betwee

    • Agreed, the usefulness should not have any bearing on it's legality. Cameras in every home would be useful in stopping domestic violence, arguably more effective than the current NSA collection is for it's stated purpose, but it is still not only illegal but completely undesirable.
    • by Quila (201335)

      The idea is that an overriding government concern ("compelling state interest") can allow for infringements on constitutional rights. If this is to be a compelling state interest, then the judge must believe it to be effective. If it's not effective, then it can't be a compelling interest.

  • Another judge drops their britches to expediency over the Constitution and the Founders. In a continuing assault on rights, one wonders how long before Americans start appeals to the ultimate Appeals Court of Messrs Colt, Smith and Wesson. Living in a big brother dictatorship is not going to be fun.
  • by snarfies (115214) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:28PM (#45798165) Homepage

    NSA has dirt on Judge William Pauley.

  • by rbrander (73222) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:34PM (#45798251) Homepage

    TFA didn't appear to go into the matter of law - does the program violate the 4th or not, and why. The decision must have done so. It's little short of bizarre that a judge went on about matters not of law - how the program is valuable or a "counter punch" for 9/11 or whatever. Surely such talk is all about an end justifying a means. I'm not allowed to break the law just because I've got a valuable end in mind; the government, the same, one would think. If the end justified the means, then, heck , allow cops to search every house at will for evidence of child-molestation.

    The NYT article [nytimes.com] says specifically that he ruled that the 4th does not apply to information given to 3rd parties. TFA notes that he went on about how we give info to 3rd parties all the time so that they can profit from them. What the heck voluntarily and openly giving over information to vendors in return for free services or whatever has to do with the government taking information non-voluntarily and without notification, he doesn't seem to have explained.

    So one comes back to the "end justifies the means" parts of his comments. There seems to be capture of the 3rd-branch "regulator" here: he believes the program is saving lives, or something, whereas the judge two weeks ago noted that he was cleared for all possible secrets, yet was shown no cases where they'd averted a crime that would otherwise have occurred. So much for the "54" terrorist plots averted.

    • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:49PM (#45798451)

      The problem is the third party doctrine which holds that voluntary disclosing information to 3rd parties removes any expectation of privacy.

      That works more or less pre-digital age. However the idea that disclosing all of this information now is voluntary is ridiculous. You would have to live like Thoreau did in his shack on Walden Pond to avoid this.

      There needs to be legislation or even better an amendment to fix this.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      Well, perhaps it would be a good idea to read the actual opinion [sbnation.com] then?

      First off, the stuff they quoted in the summary was mostly from the intro paragraph. Not going in the details of the matter of law in an intro is no huge deal.

      I did notice a bit further in as the decision went more into the pre-911 intelligence a bit of a historical error. The official 911 report actually showed that there was intelligence flagging the terrorists. As one example, one of the local FBI field offices flagged the fact tha

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:36PM (#45798285) Homepage Journal

    [assuming the summary is accurate] each of the main points can be easily shown to be factually incorrect and logically incoherent. We've done this a thousand times here, so it's not useful to do it again.

    What people should realize here is that the "Justice" system is in place to, primarily, protect the power structure. If you're still accepting that "justice is blind" and "rule of Law" fairy tale they taught in government schools, it's time to wake up and smell the tyranny.

    Just watch - when it gets there SCOTUS will put a very mild restraint on the NSA to placate the masses and give cover to the politicos and leave the majority of the programs in place. Note that making such a prediction does not depend on interpretation of The Law - The Law will be be bent to achieve the per-ordained outcome.

    When that happens, you'll have to decide if you're going to do anything substantive about it. Now's the time to think about what that might (or might not) be.

    • by pablo_max (626328)

      Hey, justice is blind!

      Why do think they have a scale? The side who puts the most money on the scale wins! The judge could not care less what the person looks like, or even it is "person".

      • by stoploss (2842505)

        Hey, justice is blind!

        Why do think they have a scale? The side who puts the most money on the scale wins! The judge could not care less what the person looks like, or even it is "person".

        FYI: contrary to popular belief, rants tacitly alluding to the Citizens United ruling are *not* relevant when discussing all possible judicial decisions.

        This particular case is a perfect example of a scenario where it is irrelevant.

  • by labiator (193328) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:37PM (#45798297)

    Authorities should just send speeding tickets to all drivers, since we all do it?

  • The good old... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:38PM (#45798323)
    The good old ends justify the means justification for violating the 4th amendment.
  • After the previous "Likely unconstitutional" ruling, it was only a matter of time before any momentum counter to the "everybody's a terrorist and that gives us an excuse to do whatever we want" point of view was stopped in its tracks. I'm not surprised this happened and I am even less surprised that his NSA-fellating ruling sounds like it was written for him.
  • Those pesky dots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LoRdTAW (99712) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:42PM (#45798367)

    "In ruling, the judge noted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the attacks occurred."

    Oh please. It has been said time and time again that the dots were in front of their faces but they didn't take notice. Same with the Boston marathon bombings. More tugging at the heart strings of America.

    " 'represents the government's counter-punch' to eliminate al-Qaeda's terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications." ....Said the CIA man in the judges chamber during judge Pauley's coaching before returning to the bench to read his ruling. It couldn't sound any more insincere and staged. Now I sound like a conspiracy theorist.

    Seriously. After all of these shenanigans have been exposed, who can trust anything the government says? They will keep on happily pissing on our rights while the courts fall in line with them telling the people "look how good this is for you! You should be happy and embrace it!" Fuck you William Pauley for selling us up the river you sackless pussy. (had to rant for a sec.)

    • by danlip (737336)

      The expression is "sold down the river". "Sold up the river" would be relatively good (given that you are a slave anyway). Conditions further south were worse for slaves.

  • by Quila (201335) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:43PM (#45798389)

    "Every day, people voluntarily surrender personal and seemingly-private information to transnational corporations, which exploit that data for profit,"

    That data is given voluntarily. People may be pretty glib in giving the information, but it is still their choice. Maybe I do want Facebook knowing everything, but don't want my government to. Still, my choice. I never opted-in at the NSA web site.

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:44PM (#45798391) Homepage

    Is a threat to the Constitution. And should be removed from his post.

    • by pablo_max (626328)

      No, he is a threat to our very way of life and our prosperity. He should be executed for high treason.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No, he is a threat to our very way of life and our prosperity. He should be executed for high treason.

        "High treason" is overkill. In this country, we have a firm definition of that term. Go look it up.

  • Judge William Pauley is nominated to the Federal Appeals bench, while Judge Richard Leon is passed over once again.
  • Are you scared of tigers?

    Take your pants down while a cast a spell to protect you from tigers.

    Next time, take off your underwear also, this way the spell can effect you better.

    This time, for the spell to work, I have to touch you down there.

    ...

    Pretty soon, your fucked either way, but at least it's not ERMAGHERD TIGERS.

  • by FrankDrebin (238464) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:49PM (#45798463) Homepage
    Lots of things are legal, for a time, before they are struck down as being unconstitutional.
  • Given how deep they're in it, do they have any other viable option? As I understand it, any ruling that would acknowledge that sweeping bugging is wrong would legitimise (pun intended) popular rebellion against the NSA. But by legitimising bugging and with so many people who have been made to believe "what is legal is acceptable" then the govenment is off the hook.
  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:51PM (#45798477)
    Citation: BOSTON MARATHON
  • by pablo_max (626328) on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:51PM (#45798483)

    Are you telling me that the US government has decided that that US government is indeed allowed to do anything it wants with regards to total surveillance on every living person in the world without any actual cause? I didn't see that one coming at all.
    Seriously, if anyone, even for one second thought that checks and balances existed with it comes to the government grabbing power for it self, you are out of your F'ing mind.
    Historically, there is only one way to curb the power of an out of control ruling class. That, however, is something most people won't have the stomach for until things get far worse.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 27, 2013 @01:53PM (#45798521)

    This judge's opinion reeks of corruption of personal feelings. Judge's are supposed to interpret what the law says to determine if a particular activity or Law fits within the narrow confines of constitutional authority.

    This judge is a proponent of "anything is okay as long as it's for the War on Terror(TM)" and didn't seem to read one word of existing case law and simply ruled from the perspective of their personal agenda.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:08PM (#45798681) Homepage Journal

    Nuke the crap out of the middle east.

    I mean, hey, the end justifies the means, right? And it would be cheaper and more expedient than spying on the whole world waiting for a bit of data to connect to another bit of data that proves (and stops) nothing.

    And really, we wouldn't be violating the rights of anyone any more than we are now. Right now we selectively target people we 'think' are terrorists and drone strike them. Whether they are or not is irrelevant and they can't have their day in court because we blew them up (and anyone else around them). So, what's the difference between that and just simply killing every muslim?

    And hey, let's start with Saudi Arabia if you're going to quote 9/11. Plus we get free oil if you don't mind it slightly radioactive.

    So how is my idea any different? In fact, my idea is better because you aren't affecting Americans, right? And only Americans "count" in this world.

  • Counter-punch? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:09PM (#45798693)

    The NSA spying on Americans en masse without warrants is a counter-punch to 9/11?

    Well, maybe.

    Al Qaeda provided the initial punch on 9/11 and now the NSA is delivering a "counter-punch." Only problem is that the American people are the targets of both punches!

  • by tekrat (242117) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:21PM (#45798805) Homepage Journal

    It's a WASTE of taxpayer money. America was just hit with a terrorist attack and the NSA has done nothing. 40 Million Credit and Debit cards were stolen from "Target". And you don't think that's economic terrorism??

    And the good 'ol NSA has no leads, and no clue on how to solve this, despite having access to everything. The Boston Bombers? They had to set up a warehouse full of FBI agents looking at 7-11 surveillance tapes to find those guys. Facial recognition software did nothing.

    The USA will be attacked again and again, and the NSA will continue to sit on its hands doing nothing. Why should they ever do anything after all? They keep getting unlimited money to do what they want in the "war on terror", but when the time comes to do something, they mysteriously won't be able to do squat.

    I have a feeling a lot of your taxpayer money is going up someone's nose. Any data out there on what the head honchos at the NSA get paid? I bet their lifestyle exceeds their income, and they aren't even trying to hide it, and it will come out, it may take 20 years, but it will come out that half the money going into the NSA is being spent on hookers and blow.

  • Logical Fallacies (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday December 27, 2013 @02:21PM (#45798819)

    Which logical fallacies apply to this?

    False Cause [yourlogicalfallacyis.com] - They perceive that 911 happened because we didn't have enough info so their solution is to collect "ALL THE INFO".
    Appeal to Emotion [yourlogicalfallacyis.com] - You don't want another terrorist attack, now do you?
    Black or White [yourlogicalfallacyis.com] - Either we collect all of the information on everyone or the terrorists win. Whose side are you on?

    Additionally, courts have used Burden of Proof [yourlogicalfallacyis.com] before. Want to prove this is illegal? Well, first you need to have been negatively impacted by this uber-secret program. Since it's an uber-secret program, you aren't allowed evidence that they spied on you. Since you have no evidence, you can't prove anything. Lawsuit tossed out. Next!

    Finally, I propose a new Logical Fallacy - the More Information Fallacy. This one presumes that we'd be able to do X if only we had more information or less roadblocks to obtaining information. This is true in a sense. The police could arrest a lot more people if they didn't need to worry about so many rules about evidence. Do you know how many criminals would be behind bars if they didn't get off on a technicality? However, the flip side to this is lowered rules lead to corruption and abuse. Lower rules on evidence handling and you can have cases where evidence is planted or tampered with and innocent people get convicted.

    In the case of the NSA, they think that "more information" will help them spot terrorists. In an ideal situation (for them, not us), knowing everything about everyone *would* let them spot and stop terrorist attacks. However 1) this would lead to abuse and mission creep to the point that the program would be used for non-terrorism related crimes or for attacking people the NSA didn't like and 2) the NSA would never be able to parse through that much data in the real world. So the claims that "more information will stop attacks" are just plain false.

    • by Quila (201335)

      Additionally, courts have used Burden of Proof before. Want to prove this is illegal? Well, first you need to have been negatively impacted by this uber-secret program.

      And they are doing it wrong in an effort to prop up the government spying. Traditionally privacy is held to the strict scrutiny standard, and that means the government is supposed to prove its actions aren't unconstitutional (as opposed to the plaintiff proving it is).

    • I propose the Smoother Operations Fallacy.

      That is. The argument is not about surveillance per se, but rather about any action that can be taken to make it easier for law enforcement to act.

      I have seen this a lot in the swedish surveillance debate. The argument is that we should spy on the people, because this makes it easier for the cops to catch bad guys.

      (which is inherently problematic, because taken to its logical extreme it means the police should be allowed to do ANYTHING, as that'd be the optimal way

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