UK & World News

  • 28 December 2013, 1:46

Judge Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Is Legal

A federal judge in New York has ruled the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone data is legal.

US District Judge William Pauley ruled the spying programme "represents the government's counter-punch" to eliminate al Qaeda's terror network.

The ruling dismissed a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the controversial surveillance programme.

The decision contrasts an earlier ruling from another federal judge who said the bulk collection of phone recordslikely violates the US Constitution.

On December 16, US District Judge Richard Leon concluded the government failed to cite a single instance in which the spying programme "actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack".

Judge Pauley, however, ruled the surveillance programme could have helped investigators "connect the dots" before the September 11 attacks.

"This blunt tool only works because it collects everything," he wrote in a 54-page decision.

"Technology allowed al Qaeda to operate decentralised and plot international terrorist attacks remotely. The bulk telephony metadata collection programme represents the government's counter-punch."

He said the public interest tilts "firmly" in the direction of the government, whose interest in combating terrorism "is an urgent objective of the highest order".

The surveillance programme was brought to light by documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The disclosure of the mass data collection provoked a heated debate over civil liberties.

President Barack Obama, who has defended the programme, recently hinted at possible changes after a panel he commissioned recommended curbing thesecretive spying powers of the NSA.

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