‘Snowden Vindicated’ as Judge Rules Against ‘Indiscriminate’ NSA Spying

In what is being billed as the biggest legal blow to the National Security Council since the dragnet spying scandal broke in June, a federal judge ruled Monday that the U.S. government “almost certainly” violated the constitution by mass collecting data on nearly every single phone call within or to the United States.

“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,” declared NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in a statement on the ruling released by journalist Glenn Greenwald.

“This is a vindication for our fellow citizen Edward Snowden who came forward because he believed the government was violating our constitutional rights.” —Glenn Greenwald, journalist

“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,” U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon wrote in a 68-page ruling filled with stinging criticisms of NSA spying.

Leon, who was appointed by George W. Bush, ruled in response to a lawsuit brought by conservative activist Larry Klayman that phone metadata collection violates Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures without demonstrating any role in preventing “terrorist” attacks.

Leon granted Klayman’s demand for a temporary injunction on the grounds that the lawsuit was likely to win. Yet, he did not immediately implement his ruling, pending a government appeal.

Nonetheless, “Leon’s 68-page opinion is the first significant legal setback for the NSA’s surveillance program since it was disclosed in June,” writes Josh Gerstein for Politico.

While the ruling is likely the first in a series of legal battles, it is certain to “influence other federal courts hearing similar arguments from the American Civil Liberties Union,” write Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts in The Guardian.

Because it takes aim at a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that the Obama administration says justifies the NSA secret spying, Leon’s legal argument could have far-reaching consequences. “If upheld on appeal, the judge’s reasoning could force the spy agency to reconsider other domestic spying programs that involve warrantless collection of “metadata” about Americans’ communication,” writes Andrea Peterson for The Washington Post.

“This is a strongly worded and carefully reasoned decision that ultimately concludes, absolutely correctly, that the NSA’s call-tracking program can’t be squared with the Constitution,” declared ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer in a statement emailed to Common Dreams. “We hope that Judge Leon’s thoughtful ruling will inform the larger conversation about the proper scope of government surveillance powers, especially the debate in Congress about the reforms necessary to bring the NSA’s surveillance activities back in line with the Constitution.”

“I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’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,” said Snowden.

“This is a vindication of the constitutional rights of American citizens, who had intimate information collected about us without our consent,” said Glenn Greenwald on a Monday MSNBC interview about Leon’s ruling on.

He added, “This is a vindication for our fellow citizen Edward Snowden who came forward because he believed the government was violating our constitutional rights.”


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Source: Common Dreams