Source: Apple Dictionary
A federal appeals court has ruled the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal. The program was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden; the ACLU filed its lawsuit based largely on Snowden’s revelations. In a unanimous decision Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York called the bulk phone records collection “unprecedented and unwarranted.” The ruling comes as Congress faces a June 1st deadline to renew the part of the Patriot Act that authorizes the NSA’s bulk data surveillance. Another measure, the USA Freedom Act, would lead to limited reforms of some of the NSA’s programs. We are joined by Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, which filed the case challenging the NSA’s bulk collection of American’s phone records.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Welcome to all of our listeners and viewers around the country and the world. A federal appeals court has ruled the national security agency’s bulk collection of million of American’s phone records is illegal. The program was first exposed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. And the ACLU filed its lawsuit based largely on Snowden’s revelations. In a unanimous decision, Thursday, a three-judge panel, a second circuit court of appeals in New York, called the bulk phone records collection unprecedented and unwarranted. Judge Gerald Lynch wrote, “The government does not even suggest that all of the records sought or even necessarily any of them are relevant to any specific defined inquiry. In a concurring opinion, Judge Robert sack wrote, “considering the issue of advocacy in the context of deliberations involving alleged state secrets, and more broadly, the ‘leak’ by Edward Snowden that led to this litigation, calls to mind the disclosures by Daniel Ellsberg, that gave rise to the legendary ‘Pentagon Papers’ litigation.”
AMY GOODMAN: Thursday’s ruling comes as Congress faces a June 1 deadline to renew part of the patriot act that authorizes the NSA’s bulk data program. Another measure called the USA Freedom Act would lead to limited reforms of some NSA programs if passed. For more, we turn to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, which filed the case challenging the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. His new article for Slate is called, “Flip the Patriot Act’s Kill Switch: Let the Worst Parts of the Law Die.” Well, Jameel, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about the significance of the court ruling.
JAMEEL JAFFER: Well, it is a very important ruling. It is something that we have been looking for now for almost two years since the first Snowden disclosures. This is a lawsuit relating to the call records program, which is a program under which the NSA is collecting information about essentially every phone call made in the United States. Every time you pick up the phone the NSA has a record of who you called and how long you spoke to them and at what time you called. And that is an immense amount of information. They are collecting and not only about suspected terrorists and criminals, but about everybody, everybody in the country. So we challenged that program right after the first Snowden disclosures back in June of 2013, and it has been winding its way through the courts. And yesterday, we got this decision from a unanimous federal appeals court in New York and the opinion essentially says that the call records program isn’t authorized by the statute that the government is relying on. The Patriot Act is very broad, but even that has limits. The government has gone beyond the limits. So it’s a great ruling and it’s significant, not only because if the ruling stands, if it’s not overturned, it will end the call records program, but also because the same legal theory that the government is relying on to justify the call records program, it’s relying on to justify many other mass surveillance programs as well. So this ruling is going to require the government to reconsider some of those other programs as well.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And isn’t this, in effect, a major vindication by a federal appeals court of the actions of Edward Snowden in that if Snowden had not come forward with this information, this court case would not even possibly have reached this level.
JAMEEL JAFFER: That is exactly right. I mean, obviously, we would not be having this debate without the Snowden disclosures and we wouldn’t have been able to get this ruling. There were judicial decisions, even before the Snowden disclosures, relating to this program. Those decisions were made in secret, not published. Only the government had appeared before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. So it all happened behind closed doors. But because of the Snowden disclosures, we were able to have adversarial review of the program for the first time. That is one of the things that the court noted yesterday. They said that the ruling was based, in part, on the fact that there was adversarial review.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Edward Snowden speaking about the NSA surveillance programs in the first video interview he did with Glenn Greenwald who was, at the time at The Guardian.
GLEN GREENWALD: Why should people care about surveillance?
EDWARD SNOWDEN: Because even if you are not doing anything wrong, you are being watched and reported, and the storage capability of these systems increases every year, consistently, by orders of magnitude, to where it’s getting to the point you don’t have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made. Every friend you have ever discussed something with and attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Edward Snowden. Judge Gerald Lynch wrote in his opinion in this case, “The sheer volume of information sought is staggering, while search warrants and subpoenas for business records may encompass large volumes of paper documents or electronic data, the most expansive of such evidentiary demands are dwarfed by the volume of records obtained pursuant to the orders in question here.” So, Jameel Jaffer, if you can you comment on this, and what does this mean for Congress? Section 215 —- does that include section 215a that -—
JAMEEL JAFFER: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —- you know, that librarians being asked questions about -—
JAMEEL JAFFER: It’s the same provision, the same provision.
AMY GOODMAN: — what did a patron — ? So it’s all the same thing. What does this mean? As early as yesterday morning the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was talking about how they weren’t going to change this.
JAMEEL JAFFER: Right, right! I think he’s still talking about that. So we get this decision in the middle of this congressional debate, and the reason we are having the congressional debate is that three provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215 are scheduled to sunset on June 1, meaning that they will go away unless Congress does something. Now we actually think they should go away that these provisions should never have been — at lease Section 215 — should never have been enacted in the first place. But at the very least, Congress should make strong reforms to prevent the kinds of abuses that we have just been talking about. But in Congress, there is a real split. There are some legislators, including the Senate majority leader, who want to extend section 215 in its existing form and to allow this kind of surveillance, this kind of mass surveillance to continue indefinitely. There are other legislators, pro privacy legislators, who would like to scale back section 215 in some ways. As I said, we have been calling for a sunset of 215. But at the very least, I think that yesterday’s opinion makes clear that the reforms that are on the table right now don’t go nearly far enough and that the reform side should really strengthen the bill.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The court not only ruled this illegal, but also said that Congress is free, if it so chooses, to enact laws that would make this legal.
Tabacco: See why really important stuff requires CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT!
JAMEEL JAFFER: Well that’s right. So basically, what the court said is — so we had argued both on statuary grounds and constitutional grounds. We have said this is not authorized by the statute and even if it is authorized by the statute, the Constitution doesn’t allow it. But because the court agreed with us on the first question it didn’t have reach all the constitutional questions. So the court basically said this statute doesn’t allow it. Congress, if you want to pass a statute that allows it, go for it, but in that case we’ll have to consider whether it is constitutional or not.
AMY GOODMAN: On Thursday Republican presidential hopeful Florida Senator Marco Rubio addressed the NSA surveillance.
AMY GOODMAN: Lying? Jameel Jaffer?
JAMEEL JAFFER: This is very frustrating because what Senator Rubio is doing here is creating a straw man.
Source: Apple Dictionary
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what is the likelihood of the Obama administration seeking to appeal this to the Supreme Court? Obviously the administration itself has been talking about changes to the current status.
JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah, it’s difficult to know because it’s so tied up with what is going on in Congress right now. I think what happens next in the litigation is going to turn in part on what happens in Congress. If Congress reauthorize section 215 in its current form, then I would expect that the intelligence community would want to appeal this, would want to ask the Supreme Court to review the Second Circuit’s decision. If congress changes the law in some ways it may have an effect on the litigation and may lead the administration to something other than seek Supreme Court review. So it is a little bit hard to say.
AMY GOODMAN: How does this relate to the USA Freedom Act?
JAMEEL JAFFER: So the USA Freedom Act is an effort to — it’s a response to this June 1 sunset that’s impending. USA freedom is an effort to scale back section 215 in some ways and to create reforms to some of the other provisions of the Patriot Act. The bill includes many — it has many worthwhile aspects. There are many good things about it. But its reforms are very limited. And even, I think, its proponents concede that its reforms are very limited. Its champions include Senator Leahy and Senator Wyden, who have been privacy reformers from the beginning. But they have had to make a lot of concessions to the intelligence community in order to keep the NSA on board, to keep the administration on board. And so now the bill is actually now fairly weak. And so we are hoping that the decision that we got yesterday will change the dynamic on the hill and will create the possibility that that reform bill becomes stronger than it is right now.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about President Obama’s comments in 2013, shortly after President Obama revealed that the NSA was engaged in bulk collection American phone records. Obama refuted Snowden’s claim at that time.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Obama in 2013. Marco Rubio sounds like he took those words practically verbatim.
JAMEEL JAFFER: Right, right! Although I would say that the administration’s tune has changed over the last couple years. We now know, from the administration and from two official review groups, that this is a program that has never been pivotal in any terrorism investigation.
We also know, from review groups and the administration itself, that the government could track suspected terrorist phone calls without tracking everybody’s phone calls. So given those two acknowledgments, it becomes very difficult for the government to defend this program. And I think that you see evidence of that in yesterday’ decision.
AMY GOODMAN: So you brought this lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union. You represent Edward Snowden. What is he saying in Russia? And what does this mean for his case; his ability to come home?
JAMEEL JAFFER: Well, I mean, he is obviously — he’s thrilled by the decision. He hasn’t spoken publicly about the decision, in part, because he’s happy with the debate being about the issues. That is what he has wanted from the beginning. There is a debate about the issues in Congress right now. There is a larger national debate about the issues. There is a debate about these issues in many other countries as well, including in Canada, in France and Germany. I think we all agree that that is what people should be focused on.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jameel Jaffer, we thank you so much for being with us, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU which filed a case challenging the NSA’a bulk collection of American’s phone records in June of 2013, shortly after Edward Snowden disclosed the program’s existence.
Jameel’s article for Slate is called “Flip the Patriot Act’s Kill Switch: Let the Worst Parts of the Law Die.” We’ll link to it at democracynow.org. We will be back in a minute.
THE U.S. SUPREME COURT IS A
Q. Who nominates Supreme Court Justices?
A. The sitting President.
Q. Who votes for these Court Nominees?
A. The U.S. Senate.
It is an Abomination that Supreme Court Justices are Political Appointees!
This Institutional Enigma is just as Evil and Undemocratic as Political Lobbying and process by which former Congressmen transfer their political associations into lucrative Lobbying positions with Corporations they formerly ruled in favor of.
This Institutional Enigma is just as Evil and Undemocratic as School Superintendents serving at the pleasure and under the auspices of Boards of Education, which are composed solely of District residents, and who volunteer to serve as Trustees and are voted in by District residents, most of whom could not distinguish a textbook from a tsetse fly!
This Institutional Enigma is just as Evil and Undemocratic as the Privatization of Medical Insurance, which used to be NonProfit 60+ years ago until Insurance Companies & HMOs used Political
Bribery – er Lobbying – to get their claws on all that money we refer to as “monthly insurance premiums”.
Under Medicare, the Government takes 4% for administrative costs. Under Privatized Medical Insurance Programs, HMOs take 33% for administrative costs.
Political Inequities are the Rule in America, not the Exception!
Just imagine how Undemocratic, how Unconstitutional and how Evil United States/ NSA Spying must be when 9 Political Appointees by the Democans and Republicrats cannot find quasi-reasonable
Excuses – er justification – of any kind to support that Abomination!
You must know the “High” Court was trying its hardest to support NSA Spying and the Patriot Act! Indeed all 9 are either Democans or Republicrats!
After all, they stopped the 2000 Vote Count in Florida and declared that their Decision should have no bearing on any Future Court Decisions of comparability! That gave the Election to Republican, George W. Bush, which together with “Hanging Chads” and “Voter Caging” means Al Gore, not George W. Bush, got the Majority of the Votes cast in Florida as well as NATIONALLY and should have won the 2000 National Presidential Election but for the Court’s POLITICAL INTERFERENCE!
Even those 9 Political Hacks on the Supreme Court could not RATIONALIZE NSA SPYING! How AWFUL, how UNCONSTITUTIONAL must it actually be!
Tabacco: I consider myself both a funnel and a filter. I funnel information, not readily available on the Mass Media, which is ignored and/or suppressed. I filter out the irrelevancies and trivialities to save both the time and effort of my Readers and bring consternation to the enemies of Truth & Fairness! When you read Tabacco, if you don’t learn something NEW, I’ve wasted your time.
Tabacco is not a blogger, who thinks; I am a Thinker, who blogs. Speaking Truth to Power!
In 1981′s ‘Body Heat’, Kathleen Turner said, “Knowledge is power”.
T.A.B.A.C.C.O. (Truth About Business And Congressional Crimes Organization) – Think Tank For Other 95% Of World: WTP = We The People