The National Security Agency (NSA) will continue with its controversial collecting and holding of American telephone records despite the program being ruled illegal by the court back in May.
The NSA is openly dismissing a ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that termed the U.S. government’s collection and hoarding of Americans’ phone conversations as “unprecedented and unwarranted,” signalling a blatant abuse of power.
The ruling declared the NSA’s dragnet program was not authorized by the USA Patriot Act under Section 215, hence was unjustifiable in law and a breach to Americans’ privacy.
However, the U.S. government, in seeking a prolonged allowance to spy on everyday Americans, declared on Monday that the ruling was trumped by Congress’ passing of the USA Freedom Act. The Act put an end to the NSA’s spying program but allowed a six month toning down period.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has decried the extended privacy breach by the U.S. surveillance arm and has moved to the Second Circuit Court through a lawsuit to seek the enjoinment of the program to the May ruling. This would effectively make it outlawed.
The ACLU averred that even the temporary continuation of the program was a blatant breach on Americans’ liberal rights.
Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director said in a statement, “We strongly disagree with the government’s claim that recent reform legislation was meant to give the NSA’s phone-records dragnet a new lease on life. The appeals court should order the NSA to end this surveillance now. It’s unlawful and it’s an entirely unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of millions of people.”
The U.S. government has come out to defend the program saying, “Contrary to plaintiffs’ insistence, Congress in that legislation did not contemplate an abrupt and immediate end to the Section 215 bulk telephony-metadata program. Quite the opposite… That transition period reflects Congress’s and the President’s combined judgment that there should be an orderly transition from the existing program to the new one, during which the government should retain needed tools to protect against the continuing terrorist threat.”
Through the winding down period, the U.S. government has successfully postponed the closure of the controversial dragnet program and bought itself more time to infringe upon the rights of the ordinary Americans. The absolute closure of the program, as envisioned in the court’s May ruling, now seems remote as the agency employs sophisticated legal tactics to avoid oversight or accountability.