On Dec. 16, federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that metadata collected by our government on phone and Internet activity was likely unconstitutional.
Just a week later, William Pauley, a federal judge in New York, dismissed the lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the American Civil Liberties Union and delivered a common-sense ruling, the complete opposite of Leon’s ruling. Pauley ruled that the National Security Agency was well within its rights, and its program to collect phone data and records was lawful. The program, Pauley said, “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from or within the United States.”
The “metadata” is a crucial part of our Homeland Security program, in that it tells security officials what phone numbers were involved, when the calls were made and how long they lasted.
Judge Pauley pointed out that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks might not have occurred had we had this type of data readily available. In fact, the attacks were the main reason behind his ruling.
He noted that in the months before the attacks, the NSA intercepted seven calls made to an Al Qaeda safe house in Yemen from one of the would-be hijackers. Khalid al-Mihdhar was in San Diego, but because NSA analysts couldn’t know his phone number, they mistakenly concluded that he was overseas.
Pauley said, “Telephony metadata would have furnished the missing information and might have permitted the NSA to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the fact that al-Mihdhar was calling the Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.”
In an editorial, the New York Post commended Judge Pauley, calling him a judge with “common sense.”
His ruling revealed just how dangerous and interconnected the world was and in many ways still is. The Sept. 11 attackers succeeded because conventional intelligence could not detect Al Qaeda’s presence and activity on our home soil.