A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency must stop collecting the phone records of a handful of Americans who challenged the legality of the mass surveillance program.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is limited to halting the surveillance of two plaintiffs and does not stop the NSA from continuing it mass collection of the phone records of millions of Americans who are not suspected of any terrorist activity. However, that mass surveillance program is scheduled to stop on Nov. 29 as required by the USA Freedom Act passed by Congress in June.
Although the judge’s ruling was limited, it is still significant, privacy advocates said.
“Judge Leon’s decision is a testament to the importance of the rule of law,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program. “This is an illegal program that violates the privacy of millions of Americans.”
Leon ruled that the NSA’s program is unconstitutional and said “the loss of constitutional freedoms for even one day is a significant harm.”
“Although this court appreciates the zealousness with which the government seeks to protect the citizens of our nation, that same government bears just as great a responsibility to protect the individual liberties of those very citizens,” Leon wrote in a 43-page opinion posted Monday.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Erin Kelly and Kevin Johnson