Federal Judge Rules NSA’s Phone Metadata Program Likely Unconstitutional

A district court judge has declared the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone metadata likely unconstitutional. While civil liberties groups are hailing the ruling as a victory, Judge Richard Leon has stayed his ruling pending government appeal.

The ruling is a legal setback for the NSA, and its defenders who have maintained that the program is at once legal, and an important tool for protecting national security. In his ruling, Judge Leon casts doubt on both counts.

Regarding its legality, the judge argues that past precedent used to legally support the program is outdated, rendering it obsolete in the face of modern technology and smartphone ubiquity. He also maintains that the government consistently argues that the program is needed for quick searching at a moment’s notice, but fails to back that up with real-world examples.

The summation of his argument is that the metadata program does clash with protections included in the Fourth Amendment.

Edward Snowden, the source of leaked documents that brought the program to the public eye, released a statement following the ruling:

I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts

The Department of Justice, meanwhile, claims to be “reviewing the court’s decision.”

You can read the full ruling here.

Top Image Credit: Flickr