A federal judge just ruled the NSA’s widespread collection of phone records is most likely unconstitutional and gave the go ahead for plaintiffs to file a lawsuit. And pending appeal, the judge said that the data collection should be halted. Of course, until that appeal goes through, the NSA will continue spying.
The ruling sounds about as dramatic as any civil liberties-loving American would like it to. "[T]he almost-Orwellian technology that enables the Government to store and analyse the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States is unlike anything that could have been conceived in 1979," said U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon referring to Smith v. Maryland, the first case allowing the government to collect phone data. He continued, "The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that data for a five-year period, updating it with new data every day in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction."
So this is a big deal. As Politico points out this "is the first significant legal setback for the NSA's surveillance program" since Edward Snowden's leaks made headlines in June, and it sets in motion a process that could bring the NSA spying to halt. But it hasn't yet. Leon's injunction amounts to a crossing guard letting the plaintiffs through to the next part of the legal process, but it'll take some time before anything is final. It'll probably take a lot more time before something crazy like Snowden getting amnesty happens. [The Wire]
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