In the first federal ruling in open court on the constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance activities, US Federal Court Judge Richard J. Leon has ruled that the bulk collection of phone metadata is likely to violate the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches (via WaPo):
‘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 and analyzing it without prior judicial approval…No court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion.’
Leon has granted a preliminary injunction against the NSA, stayed pending government appeal.
Edward Snowden, whose leaked documents uncovered the surveillance, on the ruling:
‘I acted on my belief that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts. Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.’
Overseas surveillance, of course, is not substantially affected by the ruling. In Australia at least, there is surprisingly little concern over NSA surveillance when compared, for example, to the response in parts of Europe. Greens senator Scott Ludlam appears to be the only prominent politician to publicly and regularly address its implications in or out of parliament.