The news: The National Security Agency’s collection and surveillance of Americans’ telephone records was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon filed an opinion that found the NSA’s “wholesale collection of the phone record metadata of all U.S. citizens” likely unconstitutional.
Source: The Washington Post
Leon ruled against the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance on the basis of the Fourth Amendment – protection against unreasonable search and seizure – and noted that the federal government’s spying programs seem "almost-Orwellian."
He also argued for the ineffectiveness of the NSA’s surveillance. “The government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack … I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program,” he wrote in his opinion.
There is, too, the notion that the legal standing for the program is 34 years old, when the NSA’s current operations were “the stuff of science fiction,” according to Leon.
This is the first major decision against the NSA and the federal government’s surveillance programs. The civil action lawsuit against the federal government and private telecommunication firms was filed by Larry Klayman, a conservative activist, who has been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s administration. Today’s ruling is already being met with cheers from the civil liberties community, including Sen. Rand Paul:
Leon stayed his order pending appeal, which means though he ruled in favor of Klayman, the federal government may continue its surveillance operations until an appeal is decided.