Tags: nsa | surveillance | phone | constitution

Legal Analyst Coffey: Feds Have Right to Monitor Your Phone Records

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 02:14 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

The government ultimately does have the right to keep tabs on Americans' phone records because there are no Constitutional protections to stop it, according to legal analyst Kendall Coffey.

"I understand why many of us are uncomfortable about the fact that the government has so much information about all of us . . . can do so many things to collect information and analyze it," Coffey told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"But the reality is that there isn't a constitutional protection from those bits of information one at a time. So putting it all together, which is what the existing capabilities allow, doesn't turn it into a constitutional violation.

"If knowing the phone number you're calling tomorrow and how long you're on the phone [is] not a constitution violation, then collecting all of the calls you've made over the last year, analyzing it . . . that's not going to be . . . either."

Story continues below video.

Last week, U.S. District Judge William Pauley in New York ruled that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of data on every phone call made in the United States was legal.

That decision flies in the face of an earlier ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, who said the surveillance is likely unconstitutional.

Kendall Coffey, a founding member of Coffey Burlington in Miami, said the dueling rulings show that "you can't always predict these things."

"The judge that objected to NSA surveillance was a George W. Bush appointee. The judge that is validating NSA surveillance is a [Bill] Clinton appointee," he said.

"But here's the issue: since 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court has said it's pretty clear that information from your phone and to [whom] you're calling and how long the duration of the phone call is not confidential or private information.

"It's part of what used to be on our telephone bills. So there isn't that constitutionally protected level of protection for the mere fact of phone calls and the duration and the numbers."

The National Security Agency has been under fire since its former contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information about its surveillance methods. Snowden is now a fugitive living in Russia.

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