Debate on NSA’s Collection of Americans’ Phone Records
The National Security Agency (NSA) has extensive data of Americans' call records and their online activity as well. Some call it illegal and others find it a violation of privacy. Many security experts believe that snooping is a necessary evil and important tool to counter terrorism and crime.
On Tuesday, a U.S. federal court heard a debate on whether it is legal and constitutional to have the collection of Americans' phone records. Lawyer from American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spoke against the collection and considered it to be trespassing of Americans' privacy.
The debate also centered on whether the NASA's collection is against the Section 215 of the Patriot Act and the Fourth Amendment. The NSA started keeping a record of phone calls after the 9/11 attack as a part of the agency's counter-terrorism program.
In July 2013, the program was publicized after NSA's contractor Edward Snowden leaked the NSA documents. As soon as the program was revealed, the ACLU challenged its legality and constitutionality.
The NSA program requires details of phones calls made by Americans. The details include the number dialed, total conversation time and its length. Using the information, officials can check whether the calls were made to terrorists or other suspects.
Lawyers from the side of the government explained the interpretation of Patriots Act's Section 215. The discussion continued for two hours. ACLU staff attorney Alex Abdo affirmed that such an act is an indicative of the coming time when government programs will be violating the rights of Americans.
Stuart Delery, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Civil Division, was of the view that the government needed to collect the information and find out any possible terror plot before any attack happens.
The ACLU also asked whether the government was aware of the program when the statute was made. As per the statute, the records should be vital for government-authorized investigations. But in 2013, it was found that the importance included getting data from phone companies. Delery affirmed that the government was aware of the program when the statute was made.
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