Dec. 27, 2013
NEW YORK (CBS News/AP) - A federal judge in New York has ruled that a massive federal phone-tracking program is legal.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley issued the decision Friday. He says the program "represents the government's counter-punch" to eliminate al Qaeda's terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications.
In ruling, the judge noted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how the phone data-collection system could have helped investigators connect the dots before the attacks occurred.
He says the government learned from its mistake and "adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world." He said the data-collection program was part of the adjustment.
He dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU did not immediately respond to a message for comment.
Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in a suit brought against Verizon that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. The judge put his decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal.
In his 68-page, heavily-footnoted opinion, Leon wrote that, despite the government's defense of sweeping electronic surveillance as a crucial tool against terrorism, there was not a single instance in which the NSA program "actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack."
"I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism," he added.
The collection program was disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, provoking a heated debate over civil liberties.