November 22, 2013

After years of secrecy, the National Security Agency’s phone records surveillance program had its day in open court on Friday, as civil liberties lawyers asked a federal judge in New York to shut it down, and government lawyers claimed ordinary Americans cannot legally challenge it.

U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley III did not immediately rule on issuing an injunction against the NSA program. But he did push the government on whether it respected Americans’ rights to privacy and freedom of association, and whether Congress was adequately informed about the program.

“Never before has the government attempted a program of dragnet surveillance on this scale,” warned Alexander Abdo, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union. The group brought its lawsuit against the program in June, just days after NSA leaker Edward Snowden revealed its existence. The ACLU is arguing that the government’s surveillance exceeds both its powers under the Patriot Act, and under the First and Fourth amendments.

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