ACLU appeals NSA phone data ruling

The ACLU is appealing a recent court ruling that found the National Security Agency's surveillance of phone call data constitutional.

Last week, Judge William Pauley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled in the case ACLU v. Clapper that the NSA surveillance program that collects information about virtually all American phone calls is lawful.

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Pauley wrote that Americans already allow phone companies access to information about their phone calls and pointed to the NSA’s procedures for handling abuses of the call-tracking program data.

Additionally, he discussed the usefulness of the program in fighting terrorism, calling it “the government's counterpunch” to al Qaeda's operations.

In the statement announcing its appeal, the ACLU challenged Pauley’s defense of the program.

"The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance,” ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement Thursday.

"Further, as the president’s own review panel recently observed, there’s no evidence that this dragnet program was essential to preventing any terrorist attack,” he continued. “We categorically reject the notion that the threat of terrorism requires citizens of democratic countries to surrender the freedoms that make democracies worth defending."

The civil liberties group said it “anticipates that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals will set an expedited briefing schedule and that it will hear oral argument in the spring.”