National Security Scandal

In June of 2013, The Guardian, a British newspaper, leaked information concerning classified National Security Agency documents that led to the discovery of surveillance used by the NSA, which included the collection of millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet records. Days later, NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself as the whistleblower, justifying his actions by claiming that his leak was an attempt to defend citizens privacy by speaking out against unlawful surveillance which breached the rights of citizens.

 Snowden

The controversy surrounding the legality of the NSA surveillance program has risen to the federal court. On December 16, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of individuals bringing lawsuits against the NSA, but awaits an inevitable appeal from the Justice Department, which said it was reviewing the decision. “The court concludes that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s bulk collection and querying of phone record metadata, that they have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourth Amendment claim (of unlawful search and seizure), and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent…relief,” Leon wrote. This ruling marked the beginning of the onset of cases that are likely in the next few months which will likely end up at the U.S. Supreme Court as evidenced by Leon’s recognition of the possibility of an appeal.

NSA logoLater that month, U.S. District Judge William Pauley gave a contrasting ruling, claiming that the NSA’s “data-mining” is “a critical component of the country’s effort to combat the threat of terrorism. While the judge upheld the program, he also said that the National Security Agency is subject to be monitored by The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and Congress. Pauley argued that a program like this might have even stopped the attacks on September 11, 2001 had it been available.

Department of Justice

The Justice Department is pleased with the decision that upheld the legality of the NSA’s surveillance, but this contrast in ruling will raise the likelihood that this case will go to the United States Supreme Court. The distinction between protecting the rights of citizens and harming them by damaging civil liberties is a fine line on which the NSA has been balancing ever since the terrorist attacks in 2001. Is this practice helping to save lives by preemptively stopping terrorist attacks, or is it damaging the civil liberties that comprise the very foundation of our country?

Sources:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/16/judge-nsa-surveillance-fourth-amendment/4041995/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/intelligence-leaders-push-back-on-leakers-media/2013/06/09/fff80160-d122-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/multimedia/timeline-edward-snowden-revelations.html

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/27/new-york-nsa-phone-surveillance/4219055/

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