The National Security Agency has been given the go-ahead to continue compiling the telephone records of a California-based law firm, despite a District Court judge’s decision last week to ban the NSA from conducting further surveillance through its controversial metadata collection program.
An order issued Monday by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by the federal government in the wake of last week’s ruling by Judge Richard Leon, a District Court justice who previously described the NSA’s metadata program as “almost Orwellian.”
Although Judge Leon ruled Nov. 9 that the NSA must stop collecting the call records of a lawyer who had sued the government, a three-person panel from the Court of Appeals has agreed to stay the decision, noting simply in Monday’s filing that the Obama administration had “satisfied the requirements for a stay pending appeal.”
Larry Klayman, a conservative activist and attorney who brought the suit against the government, said he’ll ask the appeals court’s full bench to revisit Monday’s decision. Should the full panel decline to rehear the case, Mr. Klayman said he will “immediately” take the case to the Supreme Court.
“As Judge Leon wrote in his latest preliminary injunction order of November 9, 2015, the D.C. Circuit sat on this case for nearly two years while the constitutional rights of millions of Americans continue to be violated. Now, obviously gun-shy after the Paris terrorist attacks, the appeals court has again put its head in the sand and not stood up for the privacy rights of We the People,” Mr. Klayman said in a statement.
Mr. Klayman’s suit against the Obama administration was filed days after media reports in 2013 revealed that the NSA had been collecting the telephone records of millions of Americans in bulk without a warrant as a result of the government’s interpretation of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provision.
Subsequent passage earlier this year of the USA Freedom Act, a surveillance reform bill championed in the wake of the NSA disclosures, will make adjustments to the way call records are collected effective later this month.
In the interim, however, Judge Leon told the government last week that it must cease collecting the call records of a plaintiff in the case, attorney J.J. Little and his California-based legal practice. If rejected by the Supreme Court, then the government can continue to collect the lawyer’s records until the program expires at the end of the month.