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Nation/World

December 28, 2013

Judge rules NSA phone surveillance legal

(Continued)

Pauley said the fact that the ACLU would never have learned about an order authorizing collection of telephony metadata related to its telephone numbers but for Snowden’s disclosures added “another level of absurdity in this case.”

“It cannot possibly be that lawbreaking conduct by a government contractor that reveals state secrets — including the means and methods of intelligence gathering — could frustrate Congress’s intent. To hold otherwise would spawn mischief,” he wrote.

Pauley also rejected the ACLU’s argument that the phone data collection program is too broad and contains too much irrelevant information.

“That argument has no traction here. Because without all the data points, the government cannot be certain it connected the pertinent ones,” he said. “Here, there is no way for the government to know which particle of telephony metadata will lead to useful counterterrorism information. When that is the case, courts routinely authorize large-scale collections of information, even if most of it will not directly bear on the investigation.”

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Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Kimberly Dozier in Washington contributed to this report.

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