Tuesday, August 27, 2013

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, A.C.L.U. Says

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/us/nsa-phone-data-collection-is-illegal-aclu-says.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130827&_r=0 August 26, 2013 N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, A.C.L.U. Says By SCOTT SHANE WASHINGTON — In a detailed legal attack on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone call data, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in court papers filed Monday that the sweeping data gathering violates the Constitution and should be halted. The A.C.L.U. cited the writings of George Orwell and the comprehensive East German surveillance portrayed in the film “The Lives of Others” in warning of the dangers of large-scale government intrusion into private lives. The new motion, elaborating on the A.C.L.U.’s arguments against the data collection, came in a federal lawsuit challenging the N.S.A. program that the group filed in June. Intelligence officials have emphasized that the N.S.A. database does not contain the contents of any Americans’ calls, but only the so-called metadata — the numbers called and the time and duration of each call. They say the database is searched only based on “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terrorism and is valuable for tracking terror plots. The Justice Department is expected to ask the judge in the case, William H. Pauley III of the Southern District of New York, to dismiss it. The department declined to comment on the A.C.L.U.’s filing. In a declaration in support of the A.C.L.U., Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, said that by gathering data on the three billion calls made each day in the United States, the N.S.A. was creating a database that could reveal some of the most intimate secrets of American citizens. “Calling patterns can reveal when we are awake and asleep; our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day; our work habits and our social aptitude; the number of friends we have, and even our civil and political affiliations,” Mr. Felten wrote. He pointed out that calls to certain numbers — a government fraud hot line, say, or a sexual assault hot line — or a text message that automatically donates to Planned Parenthood can reveal intimate details. He also said sophisticated data analysis, using software that can instantly trace chains of social connections, can make metadata even more revealing than the calls’ contents. The N.S.A.’s collection of call log data is approved in general terms by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the information is collected without individualized court warrants, based in part on a Supreme Court ruling from 1979, Smith v. Maryland, that said call logs recorded in a criminal case were not subject to protection under the Fourth Amendment. The A.C.L.U argues that the Smith ruling involves “narrow surveillance directed at a specific criminal suspect over a very limited time period.” The organization said the facts in the Smith case bore little resemblance to the mass collection of data on every call made in the country over the last seven years, which it said violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. The lawsuit also charges that the data collection violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause by imposing “a far-reaching chill” on the A.C.L.U.’s interaction with clients and sources. “Americans do not expect that their government will make a note every time they pick up the phone of whom they call, precisely when they call them and for precisely how long they speak,” the group wrote. The A.C.L.U. lawsuit is one of several challenges to N.S.A. programs based on leaks by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who is now in Russia. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group, has asked the Supreme Court to intervene and void the surveillance court’s approval of the phone data collection. Other individuals and interest groups are also pursuing court cases. © 2012 The New York Times Company Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/ "The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

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