The NSA demanded tech companies and communications providers to hand over data without batting an eye. Before Edward Snowden put the spotlight on the barely legal mass surveillance programs the NSA loves so much, Yahoo fought for its right not to respect the secretive demands coming from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Earlier this year, it seems like another company stepped up to protect users and that was Verizon.
According to the Washington Post, which cites newly declassified court filings, the telecom company sought to challenge the National Security Agency’s call data collection efforts. The decision to go against the intelligence agency came after a US District Court judge said that it was quite likely that the surveillance practiced by the NSA was unconstitutional and violated the Fourth Amendment.
At the time, the judge went as far as to say that the founding fathers of the United States would be aghast at such practices.
Verizon’s effort was in vain however, since the court decided to make use of an ancient ruling to justify the NSA’s activities. More specifically, the new judging panel said that the US Supreme Court ruling from 1979 regarding the collection of data about phone calls, including the time at which they were made and the numbers dialed, wasn’t considered a search.
That means that Americans should have absolutely no reason to expect that the numbers they dial are private, therefore the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply.
Verizon was ordered to continue providing the NSA with call data.
The case from December, the one that influenced Verizon to fight against the NSA saw activists arguing in front of a judge that PRISM violated several amendments of the Constitution, namely the First, Fourth and Fifth.
While the government claimed that PRISM was absolutely necessary and, on top of that, very much efficient, several groups have argued against this. For instance, the review group named by Obama to analyze the NSA’s activities, as well as a privacy watchdog in Washington said that so far, the metadata collection programs have been of no real help to fight terrorism acts.
The fact that Verizon’s case was shut down indicates that neither the White House nor the American courts are willing to let go of the mass surveillance system put together by the NSA. It seems rather odd that a group of judges would use a 35-year-old case to justify surveillance in this day and age when technology has changed so much.