US District Judge William Pauley, nominated by former president Bill Clinton, 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 National Security Agency (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.
The NSA is empowered by the 2001 US Patriot Act , Sec. 215 (50 U.S.C. § 1861), that states the federal government can collect data on Americans if there is a claim of national security compromise.
Metadata was syphoned under this clause for nearly a decade (that we know of).
That innocuous metadata that the NSA has been collecting includes trunk identifiers which are used to gather the metadata.
In fact, when hacking into a call, a trunk identifier can be used to not only gather information about the call, but to listen in on the conversation from both the caller and receiver.
Trunking is the way that the police can change their signal when on the radio every few seconds so that it cannot be siphoned by hackers. It is used by cell phone towers to encrypt the signal for a secure line.
Trunking follows the sender and receiver when they change channels so that GPS-like surveillance is conducted.
This allows the surveillance apparatus to have a continues stream regardless of when the channel changes every few seconds, which in turn allow those listening in to have a steady signal without breaks. Effectively, they can listen to the entire conversation and follow the signal as it changes.
Seven years ago, the Bush administration ordered the collection of information from all domestic phone calls be made under authority of the Patriot Act. All “relevant” records of business transactions were taken up during investigations.
The NSA according to whistleblower Edward Snowden, has been analyzing social media sites to connect Americans to other persons through friends in their networks.
This “policy” was devised to “’discover and track’ connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States.”
A memorandum provided by Snowden reveals that they conducted “’large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness’ of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier.”
Profile information is comprised of:
• Public data
• Retail behaviors
• Banking transactions
• Insurance information
• Facebook profile(s)
• Travel manifests
• Voter registration
• GPS location data
• Property records
• Tax information from IRS
The NSA did not indicate that all persons being tracked were identified as having been involved in illegal activity. In the documents, it is clear that the “contact chain” created by the NSA through profiling data was aimed at tying any person to any organization through separation degrees or by direct contact.