BRADENTON – A Federal District Court judge has ruled that the National Security Agency's program for systematically keeping records of the phone calls of all Americans violates their constitutional rights. Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia ordered the government to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the case's plaintiffs and to destroy records of their calling history.
In a 68-page ruling, Leon, an appointee of George W. Bush, called the program “almost Orwellian,” referring to the author George Orwell's book Nineteen Eighty-Four, while suggesting that James Madison would likely find himself “aghast” at the government's actions.
“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 ... surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment." wrote Leon.
The ruling is only a preliminary injunction. It will stop the data collection for the plaintiffs during the case. However, Leon's opinion seems to indicate a healthy skepticism of the program's constitutionality.
“The question that I will ultimately have to answer when I reach the merits of this case someday," Leon wrote, "is whether people have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the government, without any basis whatsoever to suspect them of any wrongdoing, collects and stores for five years their telephony metadata for purposes of subjecting it to high-tech querying and analysis without any case-by-case judicial approval. For the many reasons set forth above, it is significantly likely that on that day, I will answer that question in plaintiffs’ favor.”
In a statement, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked information regarding the program called it the "first of many" such programs that will be found unconstitutional now that they are known of and can have their constitutionality challenged in court.
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