US judge: NSA programme is likely unconstitutional

The collection programme was disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

Written by Associated Press | Washington | Published:December 20, 2013 5:25 am

A federal judge made headlines by declaring that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records is likely unconstitutional. But even he realized his won’t be the last word on the issue as higher courts are expected to take a look at the case .

US District Court Judge Richard Leon put his decision to grant an injunction against the NSA on hold,predicting a government appeal would take at least six months. He said he was staying the ruling pending appeal “in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues”.

Even after the appeals court rules,the Supreme Court will probably have the last word.

“This is the opening salvo in a very long story,but it’s important symbolically in dispelling the invincibility of the metadata programme,” said Stephen Vladeck,a national security law expert at the American University law school.

The collection programme was disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden.

Vladeck said 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have examined Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act,the provision of law under which the data collection takes place,without finding constitutional problems. “There’s a disconnect between the 15 judges on the FISA court who seem to think it’s a no-brainer that Section 215 is constitutional,and Judge Leon,who seems to think otherwise.’’

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