A Federal District Court judge today ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) program that once-secretly collected records of all Americans’ phone calls likely violates the Constitution and called the program’s technology “almost Orwellian.”
District of Columbia Judge Richard J. Leon in a 68-page ruling ordered the government to stop collecting data on two plaintiffs’ personal calls but limited the decision only to their case.
“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 and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”
However, citing “significant national security interests” and “constitutional issues,” Leon put off his injunction to provide the government time to appeal it.
The challenge, brought by several plaintiffs led by conservative public-interest lawyer and activist Larry Klayman, is the first successful legal ruling brought against the program since its existence was revealed in June after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The American Civil Liberties Union has a similar suit pending in New York federal court.
The NSA has admitted it received secret court approval to collect vast amounts of metadata from various companies including Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Klayman vs. Obama stated: “It was not until the actions of key NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that the American people became aware of the illegal actions their own government was taking against them. Plaintiffs filed two lawsuits, the first challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s actions in collecting telephony metadata from Verizon as a result of secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court (“FISC”) orders.
“Subsequently, Plaintiffs’ second lawsuit challenged the warrantless searches of the NSA’s PRISM program, which would monitor and intercept communications from internet companies such as Skype, Google, Youtube, AOL, Yahoo!, Facebook, Paltalk, AT&T, Sprint, and Microsoft. In collaboration with these internet companies, PRISM allows the NSA to directly access and retrieve private electronic data belonging to all users and customers of Defendants’ online services.”
The case is Klayman v. Obama (13-cv-881)