ACLU Comment on Ruling in NSA Lawsuit

WASHINGTON – A federal court ruled today that the NSA’s mass call-tracking program violates the Constitution. The lawsuit was filed in Washington by activist Larry Klayman. The American Civil Liberties Union is currently litigating a similar legal challenge in New York, ACLU v. Clapper.

Judge Richard Leon of the District of Columbia ordered the government to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the plaintiffs, and to destroy all records of their call history. The judge stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

In his ruling, Judge Leon wrote, “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…Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, one of two ACLU attorneys who argued the case last month, had this reaction to today’s ruling:

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.

As Judge Leon notes, the government’s defense of the program has relied almost entirely on a 30-year-old case that involved surveillance of a specific criminal suspect over a period of two days.

The idea that this narrow precedent authorizes the government to place every American under permanent surveillance is preposterous.

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.

The bipartisan USA Freedom Act, which has 130 co-sponsors already, would address the constitutional problems that Judge Leon identifies.”

Resources on NSA reform legislation and other legal actions are at:

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