published Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

NSA rule a major step for privacy

Let's hear it for United States District Judge Richard Leon.

On Monday, Leon, a judge in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, rebuked the National Security Agency's wholesale scraping of all Americans' telephone records and ruled such surveillance "significantly likely" to be unconstitutional by violating the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches.

Leon called the program -- established under the Patriot Act and repeatedly reauthorized by a secret intelligence court -- "a far cry" from the 1979 Supreme Court case that it was built on: Smith v. Maryland. In the older case, the Supreme Court upheld police's warrantless capture of phone numbers dialed from the home of a robbery suspect.

But Leon, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001 -- the day before 9/11 -- reasoned that the Smith case involved a "one-time, targeted request for data regarding an individual suspect in a criminal investigation," while the phone-surveillance program is a "daily, all-encompassing, indiscriminate dump" of data from the phones of people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

Let freedom ring.

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