Federal judge says NSA’s phone surveillance program is “Orwellian” and “likely unconstitutional”


KLAYMAN et al., Plaintiffs, v. OBAMA et al., Defendants

KLAYMAN et al., Plaintiff, v. OBAMA et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 13-0851 (RJL)

FILED DEC 16 2013

A few excerpts from the filing. Judge Richard Leon writes,

“On June 6, 2013, plaintiffs brought the first of two related lawsuits challenging the constitutionality and statutory authorization of certain intelligence-gathering practices y the United States government relating to the wholesale collection of phone record metadata of all U.S. citizens. These related cases are two of several lawsuits arising from public revelations over the past six months that the federal government, through the National Security Agency (“NSA”), and with the participation of certain telecommunications and internet companies, has conducted surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs that collect certain data about the telephone and internet activity of American citizens within the United States…” [mentioned in footnotes: AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Microsoft products, Gmail, Yahoo!, and Apple] . (page 1-2).

“…Defendants [certain telecommunications and internet companies], have indisputably also provided NSA with intrusive and warrantless access to the internet records of Plaintiffs…”

“…The Government responds that the public’s interest in combating terrorism is of paramount importance…a proposition that I accept without question. But the Government offers no real explanation as to how granting relief to these plaintiffs would be detrimental to that interest. Instead, the Government says that it will be burdensome to comply with any order that requires the NSA to remove plaintiffs from its database…Of course, the public has no interest in saving the Government from the burdens of complying with the Constitution!…For reasons already explained, I am not convinced at this point in the litigation that the NSA’s database has ever truly served the purpose of rapidly identifying terrorists in time-sensitive investigations, and so I am certainly not convinced that the removal of two individuals from the database will “degrade” the program in any meaningful sense…” (page 65-66)

“…Rather, the question that I will ultimately have to answer when I reach the merits of this case someday is whether people have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the Government, without any basis whatsoever to suspect them of any wrongdoing, collects and stores for five years their telephony metadata for purposes of subjecting it to high-tech querying and analysis without any case-by-case judicial approval. For the many reasons set forth above, it is significantly likely that on that day, I will answer that question in plaintiff’s favor…” (page 56)

Read the filing here

“…Subsequently, Plaintiffs’ second lawsuit challenged the warrantless searches of the NSA’s PRISM program, which would monitor and intercept communications from internet companies such as Skype, Google, Youtube, AOL, Yahoo!, Facebook, Paltalk, AT&T, Sprint, and Microsoft. In collaboration with these internet companies, PRISM allows the NSA to directly access and retrieve private electronic data belonging to all users and customers of Defendants’ online services…”