Federal Judge Says NSA Data Collection Is Legal

Increasing chance that Supreme Court will ultimately decide the issue

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A federal judge in New York said Friday that the National Security Agency can legally collect massive amounts of telephone records, disagreeing with a different judge and increasing the possibility that the issue will ultimately go before the Supreme Court.

Judge William Pauley ruled that the practice of collecting so-called “metadata” on millions of Americans’ phone calls does not violate privacy protections in the Constitution because the data is collected by third parties like telephone companies, and the NSA cannot immediately connect a number with a name. He also said the practice could have been used to prevent attacks like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had it been in place at the time, the New York Times reports.

Pauley granted a motion by the federal government to dismiss a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We are pleased the court found the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful,” Peter Carr, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, said in a statement. A lawyer for the ACLU told the AP that the group will appeal the decision.

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Leon said the program is likely unconstitutional, in what was then the first legal setback to the NSA since former contractor Edward Snowden leaked records about the program this year.

Read Pauley’s full ruling here.