A U.S. judge on Monday ruled against the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records that has outraged a growing number of citizens who say they never signed on to giving up their rights for the promises of the still inadequate national security team. The NSA’s spy program had been scheduled to end by the Nov. 30, 2015, but the federal court ruling is considered a legal precedent that may be used to prevent or halt another abuse of power by the Obama administration or a future occupant of the Oval Office.
Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asserts that the current high-tech spy program “likely violates the Constitution” and said he believes “the loss of constitutional freedoms for even one day is a significant harm.”
“This court simply cannot, and will not, allow the government to trump the Constitution merely because it suits the exigencies of the moment,” Leon wrote in his 43-page decision “The government’s position that VBNS may no longer be a participant in the program is fundamentally at odds with its ever-escalating concerns of terrorist threats,” Judge Leon said.
“It defies common sense to argue, as they apparently do, that the government has chosen to omit from this breathtakingly broad metadata collection program a provider that the government has [spied] in the past and that, presumably has the infrastructure to continue assisting in that surveillance.”
Some observers on both the left and the right on the political spectrum are hoping the federal court will also address the alleged abuses of privacy by another federal agency — the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that is considered even more unconstitutional than the National Securty Agency spy program.
For the last six years, the nation’s narcotics enforcement agency working in the midst of the drug war on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border have obtained subpoenas in order to access the vast AT&T database which stores the records of phone calls made by residents of the United States, according to a former drug enforcement agent and crime analyst, Timothy McMillan.
While the method of data collection is similar to that of the National Security Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spy program’s years of existence far surpasses the NSA. According to an official from the American Civil Liberties Union, “Calling patterns can reveal when we are awake and asleep; our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath, or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day; our work habits and our social aptitude; the number of friends we have; and even our civil and political affiliations. . . .”
The DEA’s spy program, which was dubbed “Hemisphere Project,” entails AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph) being paid by the feds to place some of its security staff in drug-enforcement task forces comprised of DEA agents and state/local police investigators. These AT&T private security officials would then give drug enforcement commanders the collected phone data going back to files during the Reagan Administration, according to McMillan.
“The DEA program far exceeds the NSA program, which allegedly stores data for nearly all telephone calls made or received in the United States for a period of five years,” said Det. McMillan, who possesses a doctorate in International Affairs.
President Barack Obama’s minions have conceded to the New York Times that AT&T’s security staff members are embedded in government drug task forces in a number of states, and admitted that the surreptitiously collected data is stored by AT&T, a private company, and not by the government or contractors working for U.S. government agencies.
Privacy violation issues may arise because the data is allegedly retrieved through the decisions of DEA superiors who routinely issue “departmental subpoenas” instead of the subpoenas that must be secured from a federal grand jury or US judge.