A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of data on nearly every phone call made in the United States is legal, reports CNN.
In his ruling Friday, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said that while the NSA’s program under Section 215 of the Patriot Act has become the center of controversy since it was revealed by leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it is legal.
“But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of government to decide,” he wrote.
In the 54-page opinion, Pauley said the sweeping program “represents the government’s counter-punch” to eliminate Al-Qaeda’s terror network by connecting fragmented and fleeting communications.
“There is no evidence that the Government has used any of the bulk telephony metadata it collected for any purpose other than investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks,” he wrote.
The NSA’s surveillance program has sparked outrage not just in the United States but abroad as well.
Snowden’s leaking of U.S. spying secrets revealed a global surveillance system of unprecedented proportions, and sparked controversy between the U.S. and foreign leaders that had their privacy breached. He has been termed the greatest threat to the US in its history.
In October, German chancellor Angela Merkel accused the U.S. of tapping her mobile phone.
It has also been reported that the NSA recorded millions of phone calls in France, including calls involving individuals with no links to terrorism.
Last week, another set of documents leaked by Snowden and published by several outlets showed that the United States had monitored the email traffic of several Israeli officials, including former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
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