back to article Slurp away, NSA: Mass phone data collection IS legal, rules federal judge

A US federal judge has ruled that the NSA is within its rights to harvest millions of innocent Americans' telephone call records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act – and that the dragnet is fine under the Fourth Amendment since the data was collected by a third-party telco, not the government. The decision kicks the debate …

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    1. bigtimehustler

      Re: Three cases cited where attacks were stopped

      Do you not take an oath when you do that? Is there not supposed to be some form of punishment if your found out to be lying later on? In the same way there would be consequences in a court? If not, presumably there should be.

  1. atlatl265

    Meta or Voice

    Excuse me is this the METAdata or the Voice +, fine line to draw. Don't wan't to see either but, just asking ?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Meta or Voice

      This particular lawsuit, and decision, concerned metadata, according to various references and the parts I skimmed of Pauley's decision.

      The latter makes interesting reading, by the way. I don't agree with Pauley's reasoning - which I find tremendously over-broad and far too ready to take suspect and unsupported claims by the government at face value - but he does construct a detailed and fairly complex argument, as one would expect of a judge in his position. He cites arguments for the government's right to maintain secrets in the US Constitution and the Federalist Papers, for example, as well as the usual more recent legislation.

      Anyone who wants to offer a substantive critique of Pauley's position (which, again, I personally do not support) would do well to review his dismissal of this suit.

  2. bigtimehustler

    Regardless of whether the courts find in favour or against, its largely irrelevant, what does need to happen is that we make sure its definitely illegal in the future and can only be interpreted as illegal by any judge. The past is in the past you can't change that, you can't fine them (they are a government department, its your money anyway) and no one will ever come out of the woodwork and own up to signing it off to take legal responsibility. It's more important what happens in the future.

  3. henrydddd

    Forgetful Americans

    It seems that Americans have forgotten the lessons of the past. They forget that J Edgar Hoover also maintained large collection on Americans (to fight crime) used this information to intimidate and harass his political enemies (like Martin Luther King).

    This message is to my fellow Americans. Ben Franklin said "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.” ”He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty

    nor security". If Americans don't act on this massive tracking by the NSA, they deserve to become slaves of the government. As it was said, that not one act of terrorism was stopped by their massive slurping of these calls. It will be sooner than later that the government will use this data as a weapon against their political enemies. If you disagree with me, stuff it!

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Forgetful Americans

      Oh, I assure you, a great many of us remember Hoover and COINTELPRO very well. We also remember Franklin's liberty-and-security maxim and many other aspects of the long and complex debates over civil rights, personal liberty, government privilege, the executive's need for secrecy, etc, in US political history.

      It'd be nice if commentators would stop treating "Americans" (by which they apparently mean "citizens of the USA", more or less) as a homogeneous mass.

      If you disagree with me, stuff it!

      Sigh. What we need is more reasonable debate and less polemic and entrenching of positions. Protest has always been a crucial part of achieving substantial change in US politics, but it's most (arguably only) effective when it's paired with discussion and an attempt at a meeting of minds. The federal and state governments can be prodded by the disquiet of the citizenry, but then they want a face-saving way out, and the path to that is to at least make a show of reasoned deliberation.

  4. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Pervs supporting the NSA

    Whenever I see a judge or politician make an irrational decision in support of the NSA, I figure that the NSA has photos and recordings of that person doing awful things that would enrage or horrify the public.

    I hope the NSA never releases anything about their big buddy, DiFi. I don't want to know.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With the telco acting as a actor for the government, they were not acting as an independent third-party. Much like the police cannot use a third-party that does not follow the law, neither can the government.

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    You have problem with Corporate Commuist Capitalism, comrade?

    Seriously, the Nazis and Stalin and secret police throughout history never had it so good.

    And is there any more doubt in anyone's mind that the corporations in America are above the law? "No violation has it was gathered by a third party", my arse!

    America has become the very thing the Founding Father waged war against.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Precedents

    Unfortunately there are abundant precedents for this craven and unprincipled decision. Every court up to the Supremes has apparently decided that nothing - not common decency, not the law, not Christian morality, not even the Constitution - matters when it comes to defending Amurricans against the turrrrrists.

    Sometimes, when I read about the things some US leaders do, and then consider that they claim to be Christians, I wonder if they have ever so much as flipped idly through the New Testament. Let alone studied the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, any moral precept can be flipped: for example, "blessed are the peacemakers" could be interpreted as applying to those who establish "peace" by sterilising a region. "They create a desert, and they call it peace".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Precedents

      "Sometimes, when I read about the things some US leaders do, and then consider that they claim to be Christians, I wonder if they have ever so much as flipped idly through the New Testament".

      Serendipitously, I just came across a superb and fairly convincing explanation of this phenomenon - at least, in the case of Republicans. (Highly recommended reading).

      http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/a-christmas-speculation.html

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Note the power for this in THE PATRIOT Act is in section 215, not section 1,2 3 or 4

    But then you don't want really want a paragraph that effectively says "We're going to f**k the Constitution to death and there's not a Goddammed thing you can do about it" up front, do we?

    IIRC THE PATRIOT Act was the biggest bill ever dropped on the Legislature and was (apparently) written in 6 weeks.

    I may be wrong but I believe it's even bigger than Obama's "Affordable Healthcare Act," which would seem to be pretty surprising, given the latter's goals.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Note the power for this in THE PATRIOT Act is in section 215, not section 1,2 3 or 4

      "IIRC THE PATRIOT Act was the biggest bill ever dropped on the Legislature and was (apparently) written in 6 weeks".

      This PDF version is 342 pages long: http://epic.org/privacy/terrorism/hr3162.pdf. You can read about its ultra-rushed acceptance by Congress here:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/1/11/lone_senator_thwarts_dubyas_antiterror/

      I believe it was introduced one day and passed the next, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin being the only Congressman with the integrity to refuse his support. He took the outmoded and highly eccentric view that a legislator should not give his assent to a massive new law without even attempting to read it and find out what it contained.

      As for all the other Congresscritters, one does wonder what they thought their constitutional function was - given that they were perfectly content to reduce themselves to a rubber stamp for the President's wishes.

      "It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctively native American criminal class except Congress".

      - Mark Twain

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        @Tom Welsh.

        ""It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctively native American criminal class except Congress"."

        Sounds like a PhD project to me.

        Just a thought.

  9. Chozo
    Alert

    All we need now is some telecoms CEO saying he was just following orders

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Legal and rampant in the UKGBNI?

    Do you think the same sort of blanket communications surveillance is practised in Blighty......with intelligence and/or information/third party intellectual propertty being mined/plagiarised/stolen with relative impunity for obvious personal/professional/commercial advantage ........ for a right dodgy, perverse and subversive crooked edge?

  11. bailey86

    Am I missing something?

    'since the data was collected by a third-party'

    So, as long as the US government uses third parties they can do what they like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Am I missing something?

      Of course!

      It's the same as how I can hire someone to murder my enemies, and thus not be in any way responsible!

      Just cause someone told you to do something (or paid you, or threatened you, or would've shipped you to GitMo for being a terrorist), doesn't mean you have to do it. Especially if it's illegal or immoral! It's like kindergarten stuff really...

      Allergy advice: May contain nuts and/or sarcasm

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Am I missing something?

      "'since the data was collected by a third-party'

      So, as long as the US government uses third parties they can do what they like?"

      Pretty much.

      USG says "Mr X get us info on this target."

      Mr X gets data.

      No one has said anything about breaking into their home, hacking their phone/email/PC/car GPS etc.

  12. Drs. Security

    so US citizens are not special

    it seems that the US judge also ruled that US citizens are either foreigners in their own country or, interestingly enough, they are not that more special then us non-US once.

    As the same snooping rules seem to apply to everyone using any means of communication on the earth by this ruling.

    Honestly, let them get all the data from all their own citizens as well, they are snooping on mine too and I can't even complain legally.

    It seems their own paranoia is biting them in the ass finally.

    And besides that: where were the 9/11 attackers? And the Boston Marathon once?

    Precisely: inside the USA!

    Did the NSA snooping programs stop those attacks? nope.

    Did they possibly have all the data: very likely yes.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is academic for the rest of the world, the yanks (aided and abetted by gchq) are going to continue slurping everything possible.

    the supremes aren't going to help you, boycotting American goods and tech (ie. talking to them in a language they understand) may have an effect but I'm not holding my breath.

  14. Sheep!

    That's not even playing with semantics, it's just plain wrong!

    "the dragnet is fine under the Fourth Amendment since the data was collected by a third-party telco, not the government."

    And then collected from the Telco's by the government, thus in contravention of the Fourth Amendment. What a croc of shit. Judge must be in for a good retirement package after that statement!

  15. ejmfoley

    Another idiot judge

    Was this clown appointed or elected? If he was elected, vote this moron out in the next election.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Another idiot judge

      Federal judges aren't elected.

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