In the words of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge Michael Mosman: “Plus ya change, plus c’est la meme chose” – for, as he cheerfully points out, the next 180 days.
NSA’s very big ears are up and at it again, courtesy of Judge Mosman. Mosman has granted permission for the spy agency to collect phone call records of pretty much everyone, everywhere in the U.S. for the next six months.
This comes only weeks after Congress killed off this key part of the phone spying program and a federal appeals court ruled it unlawful.
Mosman concluded the 180-day grace period Congress gave NSA to wind things down specifically allows for continued phone spying.
That may or may not have been unexpected. (And what the NSA is apparently allowed to keep and use is much broader and more personal than even the billions of phone calls it has collected to date.)
But what was a surprise – certainly to the federal appeals court which last month took exception to the program’s legality- was Mosman’s emphasis on how his fellow jurists were dead wrong, just plain wrong, utterly wrong and really, very totally wrong.
Of course, he didn’t put it quite that way.
“This Court respectfully disagrees with that Court’s analysis,” Mosman wrote.
In fact, Mosman’s respectful disagreement goes on for quite a few paragraphs, though was perhaps best summed up in a single sentence: “To a considerable extent, the Second Circuit’s analysis rests on mischaracterizations of how this program works.”
Translation: They just don’t get it.
Mosman countered virtually every argument made against the program: The NSA only has access to limited information, he said; it is necessary to gather up phone records of all innocent people in order to find the records of the guilty few; the NSA is careful about privacy rules; people have no reasonable expectation of privacy when it comes to phone call data.
As it happens, much criticism about the spying program also has involved whether FISC judges bent over backward to accommodate the NSA’s staggeringly broad requests.
It’s FISC that has to approve hoovering up phone records. Which Mosman has now done, again, for 180 days.
“Plus ya change, plus c’est la meme chose” he noted: The more things change, the more they stay the same.