Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) that not only is mass surveillance constitutional; but the debate over Section 215 program is far from being decided.
The attorney general believes that massive surveillance of Americans is “appropriate” and a “constitutional use of government power.”
Holder said: “I believe (the judges) are correct that it is constitutional. The question is, just because we can do something, should we do it?”
Holder explained that he and James Clapper, director of National Intelligence (NI) are discussing policy reforms and privacy implications.
The attorney general maintains that “the NSA has acted in a way that’s consistent with the law.”
Last December, US District Judge William Pauley wrote an opinion stating that the National Security Agency (NSA) collection of data from Americans via cell phones is legal and an integral part of counter terrorism measures.
Pauley claims that these spy programs “represents the government’s counter-punch” that has saved the US from more September 11th attacks.
The district court judge said: “The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”
Last month, Pauley was at the center of the debate over whether or not Americans can request that the NSA halt their surveillance programs.
Lawyers for the government stated to Pauley that “ordinary Americans cannot legally challenge it.”
Stuart Delery, attorney for the Department of Justice (DoJ) explained that based on Smith v. Maryland (SvM), “ordinary Americans have no standing to challenge the collection of their call records. Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy for those records, and that only phone companies can challenge their collection.”
Because of this legal standing, government attorneys are moving for a dismissal of the case.
Delery told the court that the NSA surveillance program was “carefully calibrated to the purpose for which it is being used.”
Delery suggested that Pauley consult “national security experts” and step down from deciding on whether or not the NSA should continue their spying operations.
The DoJ argued that phone metadata is covered as searchable as stated in the Patriot Act and asserted that access to phone records of customers and siphoning the information “is not a search” and therefore not a violation of the 4th Amendment.