Federal judge declares NSA's collection of domestic phone records unconstitutional
Declares practice 'indiscriminate' and an 'arbitrary invasion' of privacy rights
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declared that he believes the government's collection of domestic phone records is unconstitutional. His preliminary ruling favored five plaintiffs challenging the practice, but the judge limited the decision only to their cases. The decision will likely spur on further appeals and challenges to the revelations brought upon by U.S. data mining as shown by classified leaker Edward Snowden.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon declared that he believes the government's collection of domestic phone records is unconstitutional.
"I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval," Leon said.
"Surely, such a program infringes on 'that degree of privacy' that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment."
The "plaintiffs in this case have also shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits of a Fourth Amendment claim," adding "as such, they too have adequately demonstrated irreparable injury."
Leon also noted that the government "does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature."
Leon also rejected the government's argument that a 1979 Maryland case provided precedent for the constitutionality of collecting phone metadata. A Justice Department spokesman says that "we believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found," but said the ruling is being studied.
Alarming revelations from Snowden, a former NSA contractor has created a new debate about national security and privacy interests in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Since his revelations of last year, there have been more public disclosure about the secretive legal process that sets in motion the government surveillance.
Snowden originally stated that he acted on the belief that the mass surveillance program would not withstand a constitutional challenge, saying Americans deserved a judicial review.
"Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many," Snowden said,
Currently living in Russia under a grant of asylum to avoid prosecution over the leaks in the United States, Snowden has since asked Brazil for political asylum.
The NSA has admitted it received secret court approval to collect vast amounts of metadata from telecom giant Verizon and leading Internet companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
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