“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.”
Those are the words of Judge Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia as he denounced the National Security Agency yesterday in his ruling on Klayman vs. Obama. The judge, a George W. Bush appointee, ordered the NSA to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the two plaintiffs and destroy the records it has gathered on them. He stayed his injunction, giving the government time to appeal.
The case is the first where a federal judge not on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorized and rubber-stamps the operations of the once-secret surveillance program, has ruled on the NSA’s data collection on a non-criminal defendant.
In his 68-page ruling, Judge Leon said the NSA program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution.
The statement that leaps out of his concluding pages:
” … the Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”
That’s the acid test, the single biggest indictment of both the NSA’s spying and the TSA’s invasive searches of airline passengers. Of the entire PATRIOT Act, for that matter. If these agencies want to make a case for their increasingly invasive and unconstitutional overreach, they’d better be able to show they have actually stopped imminent terrorist attacks. To date, neither agency has done that.
Correction: To date, NSA spying has caught three terrorists — Najibullah Zazi and two friends who plotted to blow up subways in New York City. Hardly numbers to justify the size and scope of NSA operations.