NEW YORK - 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
"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.