A federal court is set to hear oral arguments on the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of telephone data next month.
In a hearing in Washington on Wednesday, D.C. District Court Judge Richard Leon asked attorneys to return to make their case against the practice on Oct. 8. Leon had issued a previous injunction against the NSA’s collection of telephone metadata on behalf of plaintiff Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer and activist, in 2013. But that was overturned last month by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
In overturning the decision, the court argued that plaintiffs could not prove they had been spied on, and therefore did not have standing. “Plaintiffs never in any fashion demonstrated that the government is or has been collecting such records,” the court ruled.
Speaking before the District Court on Wednesday, Klayman made light of the appeals ruling, saying that federal attorneys “had more excuses” about why his case couldn’t proceed “than a drunken camel on strike in the desert.”
In the ruling, the Appeals Court noted that Klayman used Verizon Wireless as his cellular provider, and said he could not prove that the NSA had swept up data from that network. But last week, Klayman added plaintiffs, including a California law firm, that use Verizon Business Network Services. That division of the company is known to have had some of its data harvested by the NSA’s spying program.
“They’ve already admitted that the Verizon Business Network data has been harvested. For Judge Leon, in his ruling, that’s enough to show that they have the metadata,” Klayman told reporters after the hearing.
Klayman added that this was familiar territory, and he believed that all of the parties involved knew the arguments that would be made. “Judge Leon may even be preparing a draft opinion at this point because he knows exactly what the evidence is going to be and what the oral arguments are going to be,” Klayman said.
The NSA’s collection of metadata was made public when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the program in 2013. The USA Freedom Act, passed by Congress this year, extended legal authority for the program to Nov. 29.
Nonetheless, Klayman contends, winning and sustaining an injunction is important. “The reason for an injunction would be very simple,” he said. “The government has to obey the Fourth Amendment no matter what law is in effect, whether it’s the old law or the USA Freedom Act.”