Judge Rules Against NSA Collection Program

Judge Rules Against NSA Collection Program: A federal district court judge’s ruling that a National Security Agency program collecting metadata from telephone calls could be unconstitutional suggests that the law hasn’t kept pace with changing technology.

Federal District Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia ruled on Dec. 17 that the program apparently violates the Fourth Amendment’s privacy protections that ban unreasonable searches and seizures.

The case was brought by the conservative public-interest lawyer Larry Klayman and several others. Because of its national security implications, Leon stayed his injunction to allow the government time to appeal, a process he says could take about a half year.

“The almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979,” Leon says in his ruling, referencing a 1979 Supreme Court ruling titled Smith v. Maryland.

“Put simply, people in 2013 have an entirely different relationship with phones than they did 34 years ago,” the judge says. “As a result, people make calls and send text messages now that they would not – really, could not – have made or sent back when Smith was decided.”

To defend the NSA collection program, government lawyers cite that 1979 ruling, which found police didn’t need a search warrant to install a device that recorded the numbers dialed on a particular phone line.