A federal appeals panel heard arguments in New York City on Tuesday from attorneys representing the American Civil Liberties Union and the United States government as the court considers the future of a controversial phone surveillance program.
The three democratically-appointed judges serving the Second Circuit Court of Appeals spent two hours asking questions of the ACLU and Justice Department lawyers during the hearing, but reserved making a decision just yet concerning the matter at hand: the US intelligence community’s reliance on Section 215 of the Patriot Act to receive in bulk the metadata, or raw call records, pertaining to the daily phone habits of millions of Americans.
Last June’s disclosure of classified documents detailing how the US National Security Agency compels telecommunication companies for these records spawned a slew of lawsuits, including one brought by the ACLU only days after journalists began to report on the leaks attributed to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. And although a federal court judge serving the District of Washington, DC agreed with the plaintiffs in one case that the government’s use of Sec. 215 was likely unconstitutional and “almost Orwellian,” Judge William Pauley ruled for the Southern District of New York last December in the government’s favor and insisted “There is no evidence that the government has used any of the bulk telephony metadata it collected for any purpose other than investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks,” and that the NSA’s efforts are necessary to combat the “bold jujitsu” of international terrorism.