Federal Judge Rules N.S.A. Phone Records Unconstitutional

By, Jeremy C. Curimao

Photo Courtesy of National Securty Agency (N.S.A.)

Pictured is the seemingly-on-purpose mysterious headquarters of the N.S.A. located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Photo Courtesy of National Security Agency (N.S.A.)

On Monday, November 17th, the National Security Agency’s (N.S.A.) program that obtains and keeps records of virtually all Americans’ phone calls was ruled as an almost certain violation of the Constitution by a federal district judge. Referring to English author George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1984), the judge deemed the program “almost Orwellian” and claimed that the program “infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined.”

According to the New York Times, the judge, Richard J. Leon, relied on two plaintiffs in the case, who eventually requested their calling history be erased from the Agency’s databases.

In Judge Leon’s 68-page ruling of the case, he stated that he had many doubts about the effectiveness of the program. He also referred to and negatively rejected the Obama administration’s argument that the 1979 case Smith v. Maryland establishes the legality of the program.

The plaintiffs were brought to the Court by Larry Klayman, a legal activist who identifies himself as conservative.

Klayman had an “unusual” explanation for his legal standing to challenge the program as he claimed that the government “sent inexplicable text messages” to his clients (the plaintiffs) on his behalf. Klayman called Judge Leon “an American hero” and was “extremely gratified that Judge Leon had the courage to make this ruling.”

However, Judge Leon’s ruling is not a final judgement on the future of the program, but rather a “preliminary injunction to stop the collection of data about the plaintiffs while they pursued their case.”

An urban bus in Washington with an advertisement about Edward J. Snowden sponsored by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. Photo Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency.

An urban bus in Washington with an advertisement about Edward J. Snowden sponsored by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. Photo Courtesy of Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency.

Despite the uncertainty of the program’s future, the case is the ultimately the first successful legal challenge against the surveillance programs since it was unveiled last June due to leaks by former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden. Snowden commented on the ruling from Moscow, Russia, where he is currently living in temporary asylum.

Snowden said, “today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights,” the statement read. “It is the first of many.”

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