Menu
Judge questions evidence on whether NSA spying is too broad

Judge questions evidence on whether NSA spying is too broad

A federal lawsuit charges that the government's Internet surveillance is unconstitutional

A federal judge on Friday questioned the strength of a key lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the government's Internet surveillance program known as "upstream" data collection.

Judge Jeffrey White heard oral arguments by attorneys from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit, and the government, during a hearing in a federal district court in Oakland, California. The EFF says its suit is the first challenge in public court to the government's upstream data program, which copies online data from the main cables connecting Internet networks around the world.

The EFF first filed its suit in 2008 after an AT&T technician provided evidence that the company routed copies of its Internet traffic records to the NSA.

The National Security Agency program is unconstitutional because it collects communications, including content such as email, of people without ties to issues of national security, EFF attorney Richard Wiebe told the judge. That's an overly broad dragnet that violates the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, he said.

U.S. Justice Department attorney James Gilligan did not deny the government taps the Internet's backbone to gather data. But the government uses filtering mechanisms to automatically destroy certain communications records within milliseconds, he said.

Judge White could declare the upstream collection program unconstitutional, a ruling the government would probably appeal. But on Friday, he questioned whether there was enough evidence on either side to say whether the program is constitutional.

The judge's ruling might take months, judging from the number and complexity of questions he asked Friday.

"What evidence is there that it's all international communications [gathered], not just communications with suspected terrorists or hot spots?" he asked EFF attorney Wiebe.

Wiebe cited a top-secret 2009 report by the NSA inspector general detailing the government's email and Internet data collection, published by The Guardian. Other documents, including AT&T's first surveillance transparency report, published earlier this year, provide evidence of the program's reach, he said.

But the government has never confirmed nor denied the 2009 secret report, Gilligan said, and AT&T's report only pertains to legal court orders received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The government has argued that upstream data collection by the NSA is legal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The judge also asked whether the government was seeking an easy out by simply saying its data filtering was "automatic."

"It's concerning that, given the digital age, if the government can't do something directly, but can do it by a machine, does that open the door to get around whether there was illegal search and seizure?" he said.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags EFFat&tsecuritylegalgovernmentdata protectionprivacy

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments