James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, testifies during a House Select Intelligence Committee hearing on Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on October 29, 2013. UPI/Pete Marovich | License Photo
NEW YORK, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A federal judge in New York Friday ruled the U.S. National Security Agency's phone data collection program to be lawful.
U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III's ruling dismissed a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper -- the first of several lawsuits to challenge the agency's wide-sweeping surveillance program.
The lawsuit alleged the program, which allows the national government to collect phone customer data, "almost certainly" violated constitutional rights against unreasonable searches, the Wall Street Journal said.
"The natural tension between protecting the nation and preserving civil liberty is squarely presented by the Government's bulk telephony metadata collection program," Pauley wrote in his 53-page ruling.
"While robust discussions are underway across the nation, in Congress, and at the White House, the question for this Court is whether the Government's bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This Court finds it is. But the question of whether that program should be conducted is for the other two coordinate branches of Government to decide," the judge wrote.
Lawyers for the ACLU argued last month that Americans should be allowed to have some privacy when it comes to their phone records. However, Pauley ruled that the NSA only used the records to stop terror attacks.
"No doubt, the bulk telephony metadata collection program vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from, or within the United States. That is by design, as it allows the NSA to detect relationships so attenuated and ephemeral they would otherwise escape notice," he wrote. "As the September 11th attacks demonstrate, the cost of missing such a thread can be horrific."