The formerly secret and highly controversial phone data-mining program conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) is likely a violation of the U.S. constitution, a federal judge ruled today.
In this program, the NSA collects information on nearly all telephone calls made to and from the country, leaving many to question whether it infringes on personal freedoms. And as of today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon, it seems that may be the case.
“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,” Leon wrote in his ruling. The case itself came from a lawsuit filed by conservative legal activist Larry Klayman.
Leon specifically said the NSA’s phone program appears to violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. He also indicated that the Justice Department failed in giving convincing evidence that collecting these phone records successfully helped stop terrorist attacks.
Previously, the Justice Department argued that collecting metadata from phone calls — length of call, time of call, and numbers dialed — did not violate the Fourth Amendment because this information is routinely gathered by phone companies for billing purposes. That means the department deemed the use of that data outside of billing purposes as fair game, because they weren’t the ones actually doing the searching.
And if you’re curious about what the NSA can do with all the metadata collected from the nearly 5 billion mobile phone records created every day, check out this rundown by VentureBeat’s Meghan Kelly.