Feinstein welcomes Supreme Court ruling on NSA metadata snooping

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she would "welcome" a Supreme Court review of a National Security Agency surveillance program that a district court judge ruled is likely unconstitutional.

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“Only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program,” Feinstein, a supporter of the NSA’s bulk collection of phone metadata, said in a statement Tuesday.

“I welcome a Supreme Court review since it has been more than 30 years since the court’s original decision of constitutionality, and I believe it is crucial to settling the issue once and for all. In the meantime, the call records program remains in effect.”

The Supreme Court declined without comment to hear a separate case regarding the program in November.

Feinstein said the program has been deemed constitutional numerous times by the FISA court and earlier this year in a “real world terrorist case.”

“Clearly we have competing decisions from those of at least three different courts,” she said.

On Monday, District Court Judge Richard Leon rejected a 1979 case as precedent, arguing the NSA program used “almost-Orwellian technology.” He said the massive collection of phone data and the increase in smartphone technology has changed the circumstances.

Leon granted a request for an injunction that would halt the collection of phone metadata on two individuals but delayed the decision to give the government time to appeal.

In November, a U.S. District Court judge in California denied a new trial for a group of defendants accused of providing support to the terrorist organization Al-Shabab after it was revealed that the decision was based on evidence from the NSA program.

“In upholding these convictions, Judge Miller cited Smith v. Maryland (1979) the controlling legal precedent and held the defendants had ‘no legitimate expectation of privacy’ over the type of telephone metadata acquired by the government,” Feinstein said.

Feinstein asserted the program is constitutional but could benefit from increased transparency and privacy protection.

Other lawmakers have applauded Monday's ruling.

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