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    Politico: Judge: NSA phone program likely unconstitutional

    Politico reports on a ruling (archive pdf) concerning the National Security Agency surveillance program concerning telephone call data and privacy and Fourth Amendment rights. The program was revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Politico reports on the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in Klayman v. Obama (13-0851):

    A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency program which collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States is likely unconstitutional.

    U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the information had helped to head off terrorist attacks. […]

    “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,” wrote Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush. […]

    Leon’s 68-page opinion is the first significant legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since it was disclosed in June in news stories based on leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. For seven years, the metadata program has been approved repeatedly by numerous judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and found constitutional by at least one judge sitting in a criminal case. […]

    Government lawyers and the judges who found the NSA program legal pointed to a 1979 Supreme Court ruling, Smith v. Maryland, which found no search warrant was needed by police to install a device which recorded the numbers dialed on a particular phone line.

    But Leon said the three-decade-old precedent was not applicable to a program like the NSA’s because of its sophistication and because telephone use has become far more intense in recent years.

    Read the full story for more details, including the stay of a preliminary injunction in the case.

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