U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon has handed down a blockbuster decision this afternoon finding that the massive National Security Agency surveillance program is unconstitutional – a view shared by many constitutional scholars including myself. The decision is not only a courageous defense of privacy but a reaffirmation of the integrity
and independence of the courts. While President Obama often insists that his authority for such surveillance is clear, the Justice Department has fought mightily (and until now successfully) to block all major challenges of the program from securing judicial review. The decision is also an embarrassment to the “reform” boards set up by the White House, including one that just released its findings on the NSA program (including the assurance that the NSA program is perfectly legal).
District Court Judge Richard Leon
The Review Board conclusions were leaked by officials, which noted that the board found that the NSA is operating within the laws. This was the day before Leon issued his ruling saying that the NSA was flagrantly violating the Constitution. Many of us have questioned the hand picked boards, including a privacy board that has yet to issue its recommendations, in the wake of the Snowden scandal.
Leon made it clear that this was not a close question: “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 it and analyzing it without judicial approval.” What in interesting is that he stated that he not only saw the legal basis for such searches but failed to see the value of the program as a whole: “I have significant doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism.”
...Those of us who believe in civil liberties and the Constitution should celebrate with champagne tonight.