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Judge Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Program Unconstitutional

The National Security Agency’s phone surveillance activities are most probably unconstitutional, according to a federal judge’s ruling on Monday.

The surveillance program, revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this year, collects time logs and phone numbers from every phone call in the U.S. with the supposed purpose of catching terrorists.

“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,” said U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

Nevertheless, Leon has delayed proceeding with the ruling until an expected appeal from the government. The Justice Department said in a statement that, although they’ve assessed the ruling, they “believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found,” citing a 1979 Supreme Court case that strips Americans of their privacy if they willingly turn in personal information such as who and when they call.

Leon is not convinced the case pertains to “present day circumstances,” noting that technological advancements as well as today’s increased phone usage makes today “thoroughly unlike those considered by the Supreme Court thirty-four years ago.”

Leon is a federal trial judge, which makes his ruling subject to a review by the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and probably a subsequent Supreme Court case, given the increasingly larger spotlight aimed at the NSA’s surveillance policies.

About the author

Gary Bryan is an industrial marketing manager by daytime and political and social issues writer by night. You can also find his editorials at Mic.com.