Sunday on 60 Minutes, National Security Agency director Keith Alexander described the NSA’s surveillance program – and made it sound reasonable.
“The fact is, we’re not collecting everyone’s email. We’re not collecting everybody’s phone things. We’re not listening to that,” said Alexander.
But in a ruling Monday, Federal Judge Richard Leon called the phone surveillance an “almost Orwellian” violation of the Fourth Amendment that would have left James Madison “aghast.”
And so he ruled in favor of two Verizon Wireless subscribers who had demanded the NSA stop collecting their data and destroy whatever was being stored.
As for the NSA’s argument that these aren’t conversations, just a log of phone numbers and call times, Professor Steve Bellovin of Columbia says that argument won’t cut it anymore.
“Five years worth of calling data is extremely revealing about who you are and what you do,” explained Bellovin.
The judge has stayed his ruling, so it won’t take effect right away, and it’s going to be appealed.
But just thinking this through – even if it does stand, do we really think that the NSA would ever yank the plug on its computers?
It might say it was, but how would we know? The whole thing could even be an elaborate double fake.
I have to think that with all the Edward Snowden revelations, the SMART terrorists stopped using phones long ago.
So maybe the NSA would welcome a court ruling to make the world think phone surveillance is out of bounds, in hopes the terrorists would start using their phones again.
The only way to know for sure would be to set up another agency to tap the NSA’s conversations.