US govt appeals ruling denouncing NSA’s mass phone surveillance as unconstitutional

The US Justice Department appealed Friday a federal judge’s December ruling that advanced a legal challenge to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records.

The Justice Department filed the appeal with the US Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. US government lawyers are asking for a dismissal of US District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling that called the NSA’s domestic phone metadata collection likely unconstitutional.

“I believe that bulk telephone metadata collection and analysis almost certainly does violate a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Leon wrote in mid-December.

“It’s one thing to say that police expect phone companies to occasionally provide information to law enforcement; it is quite another to suggest that our citizens expect all phone companies to operate what is effectively a joint intelligence-gathering operation with the government.”

After the Justice Department’s appeal of the Leon decision, opposing lawyer and plaintiff Larry Klayman said he will ask the appeals court to refer the case directly to the US Supreme Court, AP reported.

Leon’s December ruling ultimately approved a request for injunction filed by conservative activist Klayman and co-plaintiff Charles Strange, and ordered the government to stop collection through the NSA program of “any telephone metadata associated with their personal Verizon accounts” and the destruction of any of their metadata collected previously.

“I am not convinced at this point in the litigation that the NSA’s database has ever truly served the purpose of rapidly identifying terrorists in time-sensitive investigations, and so I am certainly not convinced that the removal of two individuals from the database will ‘degrade’ the program in any meaningful sense,” he wrote.

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