A federal judge has ruled that the National Security Agency’s phone record surveillance programme is likely to be unconstitutional.
US District Court Judge Richard Leon, ironically a George Bush appointee, said that the agency’s controversial programme appears to violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The programme collects records of the time and phone numbers involved in every phone call made in the US, and allows that database to be queried for connections to suspected terrorists.
According to the Huffington Post, Leon could not 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.
He said that the author of the constitution, James Madison, the man who was anti-democracy and thought legislators should be “disinterested” and act against the wishes of constituents, would be aghast by the NSA’s antics.
His ruling came down after conservative activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit against Prism in June. The suit claimed that the NSA’s surveillance “violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens”.
Leon ordered the government to stop collecting the phone records of Klayman and another plaintiff, and to destroy the records already collected. But he also stayed that order, giving the government another chance to argue the programme doesn’t violate the Constitution.