The Justice Department lost its bid Thursday to delay the ACLU challenge to the National Security Agency’s data-collecting program as a federal judge reminded government lawyers they were in a courtroom not a marketplace. “This is not a bazaar, it’s a courtroom,” the peeved U.S. District Judge William Pauley said before dismissing the federal government’s request to reschedule.
Uncle Sam argued that it needed more time to declassify hundreds of documents. Jameel Jaffer, representing the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that the government has demonstrated that it could declassify material quickly “when it wanted to.”
Pauley ordered that motions be filed by Aug. 26, and that oral arguments will begin Nov. 1. In its federal complaint , filed after Snowden leaked a secret court order that forced Verizon to “turn over, every day, metadata about the calls made by each of its subscribers over the three-month period ending on July 19, 2013,” the ACLU seeks an injunction to block Verizon from turning over phone records.
“As every day goes by, the government is monitoring every phone call to the ACLU,” Jaffer said. The ACLU fears that knowledge of the program makes whistle-blowers hesitant to contact it for fear of being spied on by the government, he added.
“We’re not alone in thinking this goes beyond what Congress intended,” Jadder said. The Justice Department said in a letter to Judge Pauley that the data-culling of phone records has assisted in preventing terrorism. The ACLU says the surveillance efforts violate the First and Fourth Amendments.