NSA collection of metadata likely to be unconstitutional, US judge says

18/12/2013

An opinion by a judge at the US District Court for the District of Columbia, given on 16 December, says that the mass collection of metadata by the US National Security Agency (NSA) is likely to violate the fourth amendment of the US constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. It is thought that the case, led by conservative legal activist, Larry Klayman, will end up in the Supreme Court.

Federal district court Judge, Richard Leon, wrote: “The Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent [terrorism] attack…  I believe that bulk telephone metadata collection and analysis almost certainly does violate a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Edward Snowden immediately sent a letter to former Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, saying: “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,” Snowden wrote. “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.”

Greenwald gave testimony to the European Parliament’s Justice (LIBE) Committee via a video link today, on Wednesday 18 December. He explained that, in fact, the collection of metadata is even more privacy intrusive than monitoring content of electronic communications. The metadata reveals who is talking to whom, and any associations with other groups and individuals.

He said that the main objective of the NSA was the ‘elimination of individuals’ privacy worldwide.’ He explained that further revelations will be made, and that Snowden’s files and copies of them are kept securely in several different locations. Reporters have been very careful only to publish what is in the public interest and have avoided disclosing any personal details, he said.

The European Parliament’s LIBE committee is soon to issue a report on surveillance.

The US district court for the district of Columbia, the  memorandum and opinion is at http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/dcd/

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