United States

Jan 15, 2014

Judicial tension stirs over the dark arts of surveillance practices

The United States National Security Agency is facing its first real legal challenge to its collection of citizens' phone metadata. Journalist and law student Parashar Das has followed the cases from Australia.

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The National Security Agency surveillance saga continues, as the United States Justice Department attempts to block the most successful lawsuit levelled against its current surveillance of American citizens’ phone records.  Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations have been the cause of tension in a recent succession of conflicting court rulings that mark the first instances of a federal judge considering the NSA’s metadata collection program outside of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon ordered the government to stop collecting the calling data of plaintiff attorney Larry Clayman. Clayman is demanding the government produces operational information on NSA surveillance practices as the court case proceeds to discovery. The Justice Department’s latest motion attempts to deflect Clayman’s demands on the grounds that “disclosure of such extraordinarily sensitive information” could damage national security.

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2 thoughts on “Judicial tension stirs over the dark arts of surveillance practices

  1. Andybob

    It is fascinating to watch the forensic consequences of policies which infringe freedom in the name of saving it.

    But it is sobering to realise that even if Mr. Clayman and the ACLU prevail on appeal, there will still be no impediment to the NSA collecting anything it wants in relation to non-US citizens, i.e., us.

  2. Brendan Jones

    Incredibly on September 25, 2012 Philip Dorling published in Fairfax an article “Be careful, she might hear you” which broke the news of the Australian government collecting metadata long before Edward Snowden ever popped up his head:

    “Australian law enforcement and government agencies are also accessing vast troves of phone and internet data without warrant. … Data accessed includes phone and internet account information, outwards and inwards call details, internet access, and details of websites visited, though not the actual content of communications. Telecommunications data now accessible without warrant also includes location data, which can be accessed both historically and in real time. Few Australians would have agreed two decades ago to carry a government-accessible tracking device, but that is precisely what they do when carrying a modern mobile phone or tablet. … Federal government agencies gaining access to such data include ASIO, AFP, the Australian Crime Commission, the Tax Office, the departments of Defence, Immigration and Citizenship and Health and Ageing, and Medicare. Data is also accessed by state police and anti-corruption bodies, state government agencies, local government bodies and even the RSPCA.”

    But there was barely a murmur from the public, and other MSM outlets ignored the story.

    (At the time Roxon claimed the metadata powers were necessary to fight crime, but if that were so, why hadn’t she acted on Linton Besser’s reports of endemic crime and corruption in the Commonwealth Public Service?)

    Then on June 5, 2013 Edward Snowden breaks the news the NSA is doing the same thing to Americans, and all hell breaks loose. (You have to admire the American people. They don’t take sh!t. Aussies do.)

    BTW The history of how America got the 4th Amendment makes fascinating reading, and very clear that the NSA is violating the laws’ intent.

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