Federal Court Rules Bulk Collection Of Phone Records By NSA Likely Violates Constitution: Founding Fathers ‘Would Be Aghast’

A federal judge has ruled that the “wholesale collection of the phone record metadata” of all U.S. citizens — a program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — likely violates the 4th Amendment and is unconstitutional.

In the decision, Judge Leon rules that the plaintiffs challenging the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, including legal activist and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman, have “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of succession the merits of their Fourth Amendment claims, and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief.” The decision describes the technology used by the Government as “almost-Orwellian.”


Judge Leon explains “[P]laintiff’s have a very significant expectation of privacy in an aggregated collection of their telephony metadata covering the last five years.” Judge Leon notes that “the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.” He notes that the “program infringes of ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.” Judge Leon concludes that “the author of our constitution, James Madison…would be aghast.”

The decision was stayed by Judge Leon pending appeal and, therefore, has no immediate effect.


Sen. Mark Udall, a member of the Intelligence Committee, released a statement arguing that the decision underscore the urgent need to reform the NSA and “rein in the dragnet collection of phone records.”


Edward Snowden released the following statement via Glenn Greenwald: “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. 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.”