Judge Slaps NSA, Says Its Phone Surveillance Program Is Probably Unconstitutional

Excellent news:

Take that!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 to be unconstitutional.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found that the program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the so-called metadata had helped to head off terrorist attacks.

Acting on a lawsuit brought by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, Leon issued a preliminary injunction barring the NSA from collecting metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients. However, the judge stayed the order to allow for an appeal.

Read the ruling here. Read Reason's coverage of the NSA scandal here.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Hugh Akston||

    "Not a Suicide Pact" in 4...3...2...

  • Doctor Whom||

    If only one life is saved....

  • Loki||

    Why do you want the terrorists to win?

  • UnCivilServant||

    So the judge didn't think the NSA had sufficiently embarassing dirt on him yet?

  • wareagle||

    did the judge not see the 60 Minutes broadcast? There was no willful wrongdoing.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Does nobody remember COINTELPRO? This is a 41 year delayed replay of that one. To top it off, Mark Felt did not bother telling the FBI agents in the field that they needed court orders for certain wiretaps, resulting in a COINTELPRO sentencing discount for real terrorists like Dohrn, Ayers, and others.

  • Almanian!||

    likely to be unconstitutional

    Jeesus FUCKING Antichrist - "likely"? Till the statement is, "This is such a fucking obvious violation of the Constitution that Ray Charles and Helen Keller could see it", we're living in a police state.

    FUCK. FUCK!!

  • John Thacker||

    Well, he had to explain why Smith v. Maryland didn't apply anymore, and given that he's only a measly (GWB appointed) District Court Judge, he can't exactly say that.

    Though he did use a lot of exclamation points in the ruling, all things considered. It's worth a read, especially starting around p. 45.

  • John||

    Smith v. Maryland was a purse snatching case. It involved the phone calls made by a single suspect. It was never intended to allow this kind of collection. In fact Potter Stewart predicted just this kind of result in his dissent. The majority dismissed his concerns on the grounds that such actions would never happen.

  • John Thacker||

    Oh yes, all of that is true. But precedent and all that.

    This is about as extreme a ruling (in a good way) as I've seen from a District Court Judge. They don't usually get so passionate.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    IRS is the purse snatcher writ large. The single suspect is the US population. This sort of action will never happen until it does.

    I have a friend who dismissed someone's concern over E-Z Pass toll transponder being tracked by government two years ago as she was just paranoid. Now he dismisses current NSA dragnet data collections under "who cares."

  • ||

    It's a Preliminary Injunction. He'd be out of line if he stated anything definitively.

  • Acosmist||

    It's a preliminary injunction. He's not deciding on the merits, just, inter alia, on the likelihood of success when the case IS decided on the merits. Calm down, hoss.

  • John Thacker||

    Ah, Larry Klayman. Not the first choice of any liberals to be the guy suing here. Good for him, even if he is half nuts sometimes.

  • Andrew S.||

    I've seen this dance before. There's going to be a 2-1 decision in the court of appeals overturning the district court's ruling. SCOTUS will have to pick it up (circuit splits), and there will be a 9-0 or 8-1 or 7-2 decision upholding spying as being completely constitutional.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Nah, 5-4.

  • John||

    I bet 7-2. Who is going to dissent? Keagan? Justice Penaltax? Alito? Fat chance.

    I would be surprised if more than two did. Kennedy and maybe Thomas or the Magic Latina and no more.

  • John Thacker||

    Sotomayor already strongly hinted in her concurrence to the recent GPS case (US v. Jones) that she's for overturning Smith v. Maryland, so she's thought to be a likely get. But yes, have to get a majority.

  • John||

    She has turned out to be a surprisingly good justice. I expected her to be a mindless government hack like Keagan. But she has not been that at all. I have to give her credit. The longer she is up there the more I like her.

  • SusanM||

    She's a wise latina indeed.

  • Hyperion||

    Spying on and oppressing the serfs is something that both liberal and conservative judges can get behind. Otherwise, the turrists win.

  • Andrew S.||

    I was thinking Kennedy and Sotomayor in a 7-2, Sotamayor alone in an 8-1.

  • Paul.||

    I had a longer, more complex post ready, then I deleted it. I'm gonna go... 6-3 with the three being the most progressive judges only agreeing to dissent because they knew they would lose, but still wanted to be invited to an occasional cocktail party.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    I want to believe this is a fairly obvious decision, but playing politics in the Supreme Court is the only excitement these people have.

  • Loki||

    The only mystery will be the extent of mental gymnastics Roberts has to go through in order to reach the conclusion that it's somehow a penaltax.

  • Hyperion||

    No more gymnastics necessary. From this point forward, everything is a penaltax. It's penaltaxes all the way down.

  • AdamJ||

    The real gymnast on this will be Scalia.

  • Brett L||

    He shouldn't have stayed it if there was no evidence it was preventing terrorist attacks.

  • Free Society||

    The efficacy of the policy has no baring whatsoever on it's legality.

  • Ken Shultz||

    As far as I'm concerned, it violates my constitutional rights even if there was evidence that it prevented terrorist attacks.

    If violating the Fourth Amendment prevented kidnapping, rape, arson, and murder, what difference would that make?

    What the NSA is doing would still be unconstitutional.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I must be dreaming.

  • Hyperion||

    Likely unconstitutional? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?

    Look, do we have a constitution that can be interpreted without an army of lawyers, or not? It's either unconstitutional, or it isn't. Enough of this everything is unconstitutional or nothing is, depending on which teams doing what's in question and which team is making the call.

    At this point, our constitution has been rendered practically null and void.

  • amagi1776||

    The Lions play the Ravens tonight. I can't be bothered by such trivial things.

    Also, I'm @ level 85 on Candy Crush.

  • Hyperion||

    Soon, NFL teams will sit on the sidelines and play Candy Crush to determine who wins, because... violence, and someone might do an excessive celebration and hurt another players feelings.

  • ||

    What, watching teams that are 7-6 excites you? I only get excited by teams that are 12-2.

    (hint: there's only one of them)

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    Yes, 7-6 vs. 7-6 is better than 11-2 vs 5-8.

  • Ted S.||

    God I hope those fucking Lance Easleys get their asses kicked in the playoffs.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    This game has Playoff implications.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    This game has Playoff implications.

  • Acosmist||

    Preliminary.

    Injunction.

    Reading is fundamental.

  • Paul.||

    Wouldn't it be easier for the NSA to just deny they have one? Make it double-secret?

  • Hyperion||

    All that's necessary is that Obama goes on the Chrissy Matthews show and dismisses that this is even an issue.

    Chrissy-poo gets a tingle up his leg and the sheeples are relieved that this whole spying thing was just a big conspiracy theory concocted by right wing extremists.

    Everyone is happy. Free ponies for all.

  • Aloysious||

    Please tell me that the judge physically slapped the attorney for the NSA. I would pay good money to see that.

    And then I would pay more money to see the judge physically slap Clapper.

  • some guy||

    Please tell me that the judge physically slapped the attorney for the NSA.

    That's a Justice Dept. employee. He's just doing his job, which happens to always coincide with screwing his ultimate employers... us. Good work if you can get it, I'm sure.

  • Aloysious||

    We're his employer; good. Let's fire his ass.

    I'm sending out the letter right now.

  • Ghetto Slovak Goatherder||

    The link to the ruling isn't working for me. Is the virulent Healthcare.gov spreading across the internet?

  • Paul.||

    No, the NSA has made it an un-ruling.

  • Dave Krueger||

    Wait 'til it gets to SCOTUS. SCOTUS is all that matters. SCOTUS was invented so that the executive didn't have to get the dirt on every stinkin' federal judge in the country which, back before the NSA, would have been a real challenge.

  • Sevo||

    ..."He also said the Justice Department had failed to demonstrate that collecting the so-called metadata had helped to head off terrorist attacks."...

    Which is totally irrelevant. If NSA thinks it can do so, take the case to the public and amend the Constitution.
    Fuck NSA.

  • Dave Krueger||

    The government can violate the Constitution whenever it wants by simply claiming a "compelling need". Or compelling interest. Or some shit like that.

    That eliminates the need to keep amending the Constitution.

  • some guy||

    It really is much easier this way. Why do we layfolk even bother with politics at all?

  • kinnath||

    OT

    http://www.slate.com/articles/....._just.html

    Q. Death Around the Holidays: A man I work with and with whom I've had an affair the last two months died suddenly over the weekend. I am pregnant with his child. He didn't know. His current wife, now widow, doesn't either. How do I broach this subject? His estate is rather large.

    A: I'd say I'm sorry for your loss, but since apparently you aren't, I won't bother. For your financial interests, contact a lawyer specializing in family law. I don't have any advice on where you go to get help for your lack of morals—or heart.

    I'm developing a warm spot in my hear for Prudie.

  • Paul.||

    How do I broach this subject? His estate is rather large.

    I now see why there's a need to broach this subject at all.

  • some guy||

    Sure, the woman lacks morals and heart, but there's a baby in her belly and it ain't mine. In an ideal world she would be on her own with it, but this is a welfare state. If she needs assistance I'd rather she get it from (the estate of) her baby daddy than from me.

  • Paul.||

    She doesn't need assistance, she wants a large payout of money. She's no better than a petty criminal.

  • kinnath||

    Hooking shouldn't be a crime.

  • Paul.||

    If he never agreed to an exchange of money, and then she has her lawyer pimp try to extract one by force after the fact, it's a crime.

  • Brett L||

    This is a baby-mama dream come true. Now if she can just get the check to clear in time for the abortion.

  • SugarFree||

    And then she takes a dump on his grave Christmas morning.

  • Brett L||

    I'm thinking she takes over the graveside service to talk about how she was the only one who really understood him and tell about all the times he called his wife a shrill harpy and his kids grasping little twits. And is too stupid to cry while doing so. Hopefully, he has a brother who will do the right thing and punch her out.

  • Paul.||

    That should be the wife's privilege.

  • kinnath||

    Fuck a rich guy for two months and get pregnant. This must have been planned by at least one of the parties involved.

  • Loki||

    Hopefully he left a will specifying where all of his assets go. Barring that I thought that in community property states the widow gets everything, but I'm not a lawyer, so who knows? Hopefully the baby mama gets nothing. Actually, scratch that, hopefully he died in suspicious circumstances and she ends up suspect number 1. What craven slut.

  • ||

    Many states require a statutory provision for any children born after a will was signed, on the assumption that you might/should have provided for them and we'll never know your wishes unless you affirmatively disclaim them by ignoring them after their birth.

  • BoscoH||

    The judge obviously doesn't know that THE TERRORISTS USE PHONES!!! zOMG!!

  • Bo Cara Esq.||

    This is a surprising (if welcome) result. I will have to take a look at his reasoning. I have to wonder how he even got past finding standing given Clapper v. Amnesty International.

  • SusanM||

  • Brett L||

    This is true. 65% of people surveyed by Reason are idiots. However, only about 6% identified libertarian because it was a poll of Americans, not libertarians.

  • robc||

    Did you miss the poll dump last week?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Yeah, that was part of Emily's Pollapalooza last week.

  • Loki||

    While one might expect a survey conducted by libertarians to find opposition for government intervention

    Why? Unless the poll's sample was specifically skewed to only ask those who self identified as libertarian, I see no reason to assume this.

    Opposition for such weapons — which can go undetected through metal detectors — spans party lines.

    It wouldn't be thinkprogress without at least one blatant lie.

  • Whahappan?||

    As Epi and many others have observed, it's all projection, all the time with progressives. He knows that he and other progressives would skew samples, use loaded questions and any other underhanded tactic when conducting a poll, so he assumes everyone else would, too.

  • Josh M.||

    Someone please inform how it's even a question of Constitutionality. This is pretty black and white - the gov't has no business collecting our data and they're certainly not allowed to under our Constitution.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Progressive Puritans: From e-cigs to sex classifieds, the once transgressive left wants to criminalize fun.
  • Port Authoritarians: Chris Christie’s Bridgegate scandal
  • The Menace of Secret Government: Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms don’t safeguard civil liberties

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement