Federal Judge Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Legal, Supreme Court Could Be on The Horizon

In a complete 180 from last week's NSA ruling from Washington D.C.'s U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, New York's U.S. District Judge William Pauley has found that the NSA's phone surveillance of Americans' phone calls is both legal and critical to preventing terrorism. Pauley even went so far as to say the NSA programs form a "counter-punch" to al Quaeda's choppy communications network. Pauley justified his ruling, brought about by an ACLU lawsuit, by saying that phone surveillance could have prevented 9/11:

"The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world. It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data," he said.

It's a direct counter to Leon's ruling, who stated that the collection was unconstitutional under the 'unreasonable search and seizure' clause of the Fourth Amendment. As we reported earlier, Leon had some pretty strong feelings about it, too:

I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote.

After Leon's ruling and an unfavorable panel review of the NSA, President Obama pledged last week to look for alternative measures to phone surveillance during his last press conference of the year. But Pauley's ruling could change things by essentially giving the government the answer they wanted — and in doing so, creating a precedent for fear-driven legislation reaffirming the NSA's more questionable tactics.

"We are pleased with the decision," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said, perhaps before swiveling back around to face the fireplace, stroking a large white cat.

But this isn't the final round for the NSA — the stage is beginning to be set for a last-word Supreme Court decision. Although the Justice Department has been denying some related cases because defendants can't prove they were spied on, they have been notifying people charged on suspicion of terrorism if their allegations stem from warrantless NSA phone-taps. The conflicting rulings from Pauley and Williams in different states about a federal agency increase the likelihood of an eventual Supreme Court hearing — a plausibility strengthened with every future case.