The National Security Agency’s program of gathering data on all domestic telephone calls is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled today. The NSA’s program will, however, remain in place as the case proceeds to the appellate level.
The judge, Richard Leon of U.S. District Court, an appointee of President George W. Bush, put his ruling on hold to allow the government to appeal.
The ruling explained:
“Plaintiffs have a very significant expectation of privacy in an aggregated collection of their telephone metadata covering the last five years, and the NSA’s Bulk Telephony Metadata Program significantly intrudes on that expectation. I have significant doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism. […]
“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 analyzing it without judicial approval.”
Pete Williams’ report added that the NSA justified its counterterrorism program based on a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent that has been eclipsed by “technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable.”
Update: MSNBC’s Adam Serwer has more, including helpful background on the litigation.