ACLU appeals judge's decision to throw out NSA lawsuit

The civil liberties group asks an appeals court to review the judge's order finding a phone records collection program legal

The American Civil Liberties Union will appeal a judge's decision to throw out the civil liberties group's lawsuit challenging U.S. National Security Agency surveillance.

As expected, the ACLU on Thursday filed a notice of appeal in its lawsuit against the NSA's bulk phone records collection program in the U.S. Last week, Judge William Pauley III of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the NSA's phone records program is legal and threw out the ACLU challenge.

The ACLU and other critics say the program violates the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures.

"We believe that the NSA's call-tracking program violates both statutory law and the Constitution, and we look forward to making our case in the appeals court," ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. "The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance."

Pauley's decision that the NSA phone records program does not exceed authority provided in the antiterrorism Patriot Act conflicts with a December decision from Judge Richard Leon of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who ruled in another challenge that the phone records program likely violated the Fourth Amendment.

The ACLU expects that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals will set an expedited briefing schedule in the case and will hear oral argument in the spring.

The ACLU is a customer of Verizon Communications, which received an order from the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to turn over phone records "on an ongoing daily basis."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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