Privacy Law

Scalia: Courts will decide legitimacy of NSA surveillance programs, but may be least equipped

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Courts will determine the legality of National Security Agency surveillance programs, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday. And in his opinion, that may not be a good thing.

Speaking before the Northern Virginia Technology Council, the Associated Press reports, Scalia mentioned the Supreme Court expanding privacy rights in the 1960s, with prohibitions on wiretaps without judicial approval.

“The consequence of that is that whether the NSA can do the stuff it’s been doing…which used to be a question for the people…will now be resolved by the branch of government that knows the least about the issues in question, the branch that knows the least about the extent of the threat against which the wiretapping is directed,” he said.

The justice was asked whether a technology company had the duty to inform clients when personal data is illegally accessed. His answer was yes, according to the AP.

“But it’s pretty hard to know that,” Scalia said. “If it’s a governmental wiretap, presumably it’s been approved by somebody, some lawyer expert in the field who said it was OK, and you better be damn sure you’re right before you blow the cover.”

Airport searches were also mentioned.

“That’s a terrible intrusion of privacy,” Scalia said. “But you’re willing to do it because of the seriousness of the threat.”

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