Calling the NSA’s data gathering tactics “almost-Orwellian”, federal judge Richard Leon has ruled that their gathering of data on calls made within the US is unconstitutional. NBC’s Pete Williams is reporting that the judge has decided on a case brought forward by two citizens, who ask that their data be removed from the NSA files. A district court decision, the judge acknowledges that the two were likely to win on the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.
Judge Leon did note that the NSA was operating with “understandable zeal to protect our homeland”, and also acknowledged that the current atmosphere asked for measures not yet realized in this country. Though he may understand the need for increased measures, he disagrees with the operation — and scope — of what the NSA is doing. He did put the ruling on hold to allow the government time to appeal as well.
“I am not convinced at this point in the litigation that the NSA’s database has ever truly served the purpose of rapidly identifying terrorists in time-sensitive investigations, and so I am certainly not convinced that the removal of two individuals from the database will ‘degrade’ the program in any meaningful sense” Leon wrote in his filing. The statement could be seen as a preemptive strike to the governments expected rebuttal that removing people from the database cheapens their efforts. Though he feels the counterterrorism measures are necessary, he doesn’t think the methodology is right.
This all comes on the heels of the NSA’s current PR campaign to soften its image, and last night’s 60-minutes episode. Via TV, the NSA hopes to convince the average citizen that they’re not evil. Via a district court, a judge says they need to reevaluate their tactics. This is far from decided, but it’s an interesting precedent nonetheless.