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. [Politico]
APPOINTED BY President George W. Bush, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon granted a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from gathering metadata, which is laid out in a 68-page opinion. It does nothing less than vindicate the motives of Edward Snowden and why he was compelled to put his liberty and his life in danger to expose what the NSA has been doing in secret.
Politico’s Josh Gerstein does the analysis, with a snippet below:
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.
“The ubiquity of phones has dramatically altered the quantity of information that is now available and, more importantly, what that information can tell the Government about people’s lives,” the judge wrote. “I cannot possibly navigate these uncharted Fourth Amendment waters using as my North Star a case that predates the rise of cell phones.”
Ian Milhiser of Think Progress pulls out one particular paragraph and presses it hard:
[T]he question in this case can more properly be styled as follows: When do present-day circumstances — the evolutions in the Government’s surveillance capabilities, citizens’ phone habits, and the relationship between the NSA and telecom companies — become so thoroughly unlike those considered by the Supreme Court thirty-four years ago that a precedent like Smith simply does not apply? The answer, unfortunately for the Government, is now.
The decision Monday follows another embarrassing media spectacle from CBS. The once venerable television magazine “60 Minutes” taking yet another hit to its credibility, after airing what is being called an “obsequious” bit of reporting delivered by a reporter with deep conflicts of interest, which disclosure doesn’t fix.
The NSA should not only “debate” giving Edward Snowden amnesty, but the U.S. government and the Obama administration should grant it, regardless of the State Department’s protest.
The Bush-Obama era debacle perpetrated by the NSA, which would have gone on without Edward Snowden’s bravery, as well as that of Glenn Greenwald and his compatriots, including the Guardian, has now been proven without a doubt to be an unconstitutional overreach by a government that thinks they are above the law.
Somehow, in the midst of such political fecklessness in Washington, I take heart that one determined citizen risked everything to expose what’s going on while we enjoy the country that’s supposed to be a beacon for the world.
It’s a lesson in just how important impartial judicial minds are to the American experiment, which just got a little stronger today.