A federal judge has ruledthat the National Security Agency program that collects information, or “metadata,” on telephone calls in the United States is likely unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment.
In a ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon suggested that the program, exposed by leaker Edward Snowden earlier this year, goes too far under the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. And he said that the Justice Department did not demonstrate that the program had thwarted terrorist attacks or threats.
“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 analysing it without judicial approval,” Leon wrote in the ruling.
Leon issued a preliminary injunction that prevents the NSA from collecting metadata from the Verizon accounts of the plaintiffs in the case. But Leon granted a stay in his order to allow for a government appeal. It is the first significant legal setback for the federal government since the Snowden disclosures.
“The author of our constitution, James Madison … would be aghast” at the programs, Leon wrote.
Leon is an appointee of President George W. Bush. The lawsuit was brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman. In the past year, Klayman has sought to have President Barack Obama’s name removed from Florida’s presidential ballot, on the grounds that he is not a natural-born citizen. The lawsuit was thrown out. He’s also the man who, during the government shutdown earlier this year, urged a “second American nonviolent revolution” against the Obama administration.
At the White House daily press briefing, press secretary Jay Carney referred questions to the Department of Justice. A DoJ spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Here’s the full ruling:
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