Court Finds NSA Spying Illegal

JAISAL NOOR, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore. A U.S. court of appeals struck a major blow to the National Security Agency’s bulk metadata collection Thursday. TRNN’s Kayla Rivara recently questioned former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden about this exact issue, the legality of NSA spying. This is what he aid.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FMR. NSA DIRECTOR: I share the political culture of the United States. I’m as sensitive about the 4th Amendment as any other American. That may surprise some of your viewers. But that’s, but that’s a true fact. I would recommend that they learn about what the NSA is actually doing, that they not follow the bumper sticker headlines that seem to take the story into the darkest corner of the room every time they talk about it.

NOOR: Well, now joining us to discuss all of this again is Marcy Wheeler. Marcy is joining us from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She’s an investigative reporter covering national security and civil liberties at EmptyWheel.net, among many other outlets. Thanks so much for joining us, Marcy.

MARCY WHEELER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Thanks for having me.

NOOR: So get us your reaction to this ruling. It’s front page news all over. And your response, that these judges were really kind of weighing into this ongoing debate about the legality of these programs, and it’s a sharp rebuke to people like Hayden who have maintained this is legal.

WHEELER: Right. What the decision actually did was, the district court judge had said Congress had not permitted the courts to review whether the program was legal itself. The appeals court disagreed and said we can weigh in on whether, what the NSA is doing with this dragnet exceeds what Congress intended to authorize with the language in question, and we think the definition of relevant to is basically ridiculous.

They didn’t use that word, but–and that’s really important, because it’s not just this dragnet that the government used this kind of blown out of proportion definition of relevant to to collect with. They also did it with the internet dragnet. They also did it with the DEA dragnet. So it actually probably will have repercussions outside of just the phone dragnet as people realize that that definition is problematic.

So it never got to the constitutional question. It said that we don’t have to. It bounced the case back down to the district court judge, but it sort of implied that if, say, Mitch McConnell pushes through a straight reauthorization of the Patriot Act next week, then it’s going to come right back to this panel and they’re going to rule it, they’re going to rule it unconstitutional on the 4th Amendment.

Effectively I think what this does–and the language in this opinion was language that they used in the hearing months and months and months ago. I think what this opinion does is add leverage to people trying to reform this program, whereas Mitch McConnell is–I mean, to be honest Mitch McConnell I think wants the reform as well. He just wants leverage to make it worse. And this, I think, puts the leverage back in the hands of the reformers.

NOOR: Thank you so much for joining us.

WHEELER: Thanks.

NOOR: Thank you for joining us at The Real News Network.

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