Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Federal Judge's Historic Ruling Declares NSA Mass Phone Surveillance is Likely Unconstitutional

image source
Trevor Timm
Electronic Frontier Foundation

In a historic decision, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. today declared that the NSA’s mass phone records surveillance is likely unconstitutional, ruling that the plaintiff’s data should be purged from the system and prohibiting the NSA from collecting further phone records from the plaintiffs.

The case, Klayman v. Obama, undermines the government’s assertions that its bulk surveillance program, which collects virtually every phone record in the United States, is legal. Judge Richard Leon found the “[b]ulk telephony metadata collection and analysis almost certainly does violate a reasonable expectation of privacy," which, in turn, likely results in a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Judge Leon stayed the order pending appeal because of the significant nature of the decision. Both EFF and the ACLU have active lawsuits challenging the same program, before other judges.

But make no mistake: the judge’s language in condemning the program was unequivocal. “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,” he wrote. He continued: "the author of the Constitution, James Madison...would be aghast” at the NSA’s surveillance program.