Thursday, January 02, 2014

140.8 - Outrage of the Week: Judge William Pauley

Outrage of the Week: Judge William Pauley

Which leads nicely into our last bit for this week, our other regular weekly feature, the Outrage of the Week.

At the same time I told you about Judge Richard Leon's declaration that the NSA phone spying program was "significantly likely" to be  unconstitutional, I also told you about Judge William Pauley in New York City, who also expressed concern about the collection of phone metadata during a hearing on lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union that challenged the constitutionality of the NSA program. I noted that he hadn't issued a ruling, but had said the hearing gave him a lot to think about.

Clearly, as it turns out, thinking was not on his agenda.

On December 27, Pauley issued his ruling.  He dismissed the suit in a written opinion that essentially was a rehash of the government’s arguments, one so shoe-licking that it must have left the spooks giggling like schoolgirls.

Pauley declared that "The effectiveness of bulk telephony metadata collection cannot be seriously disputed," and said it despite the findings of a 300-page report issued a couple of weeks before his ruling, a report compiled by a panel of legal and intelligence experts who were appointed by The Amazing Mr. O to examine the program. That report found that:
The section 215 telephony meta-data program [referring to Section 215 of the grossly-misnamed Patriot Act, the provision used to justify the program] has made only a modest contribution to the nation’s security ... and there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome would have been different without the section 215 telephony meta-data program.
Judge Pauley either didn't know about that report - perhaps his judicial chambers are actually a cave with no access to the outside world - or he just didn't care, so eager was he to swallow government claims. He even claimed that the program - which, let's not forget, in the judge's own words, “vacuums up information about virtually every telephone call to, from or within the United States” - he claimed the program not only is necessary and works, but only works because it is massive and so enables the spooks to, and he actually used these words, "connect the dots." He even whipped out an already-stale anecdote to suggest that the program, had it been in place, could have prevented 9/11.

But what was truly astonishing about Pauley's ruling is how brazenly - and I use the word deliberately - how brazenly he embraced the contention that the government almost always follows the law and quickly self-corrects when it doesn’t. Put another way, he was asserting that the spies need no oversight, that we can rely totally on their self-regulation, and we should just leave them alone to get on with it. For example, Pauley said NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander was being “crystal clear” when he responded to charges that the agency was mining data from phone calls by saying "We’re not authorized to do it. We aren’t doing it." Apparently, the rest of us are just supposed to say “Oh, okay. Forget we mentioned it.”

It is hard to imagine a more credulous - no, a more ignorant of reality - judge than William Pauley. He and his decision are both outrages. Still, Steven Rosenfeld must be happy.


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