The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday asked a federal appeals court to vacate a judge’s ruling that the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ telephone records is legal.
In a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the ACLU said Southern District Judge William Pauley erred in December when he held that the NSA’s “metadata” collection program did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Pauley said the program was justified as a “counter-punch” to eliminate al Qaida’s networks following the horrific attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 (NYLJ, Dec. 30, 2013).
The government has argued that the program was authorized by § 215 of the Patriot Act. But on Thursday, the ACLU said that, even if it was authorized, the scope of the NSA’s activity far exceeds anything contemplated by Congress and violates both the First and the Fourth Amendments.
“The information collected under the program supplies the NSA with a rich profile of every citizen as well as a vast record of citizens’ association with one another,” the lawyers state. “Indisputably, the NSA’s surveillance is breathtaking in its scope and intrusiveness.”
The ACLU launched its after former NSA analyst Edward Snowden leaked details about the programs. The case is American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, 14-42.