Federal Judge Rules Against The NSA Collecting Phone Records In US
Federal judge Richard Leon of the United States District Court has ruled against the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collecting of phone records. While advocates of civil liberties may consider this ruling a victory, its full impact is not clear yet because the NSA’s program is expected to undergo significant changes by the end of November this year.
Judge Leon sided with Larry Klayman, a conservative lobbyist who had request a court order in order to prevent the NSA from gathering information on the phone activity of a number of his clients. The parties that Klayman represented had filed a lawsuit against the NSA over the collection of phone data, following the revelations put forth by Edward Snowden, who was formerly a contractor of the US government agency. As for Klayman, he expressed his excitement for the decision, calling it a huge win for American mobile users. He further added that he is planning to continue to fight the case at a trial in order to seek damages from the US government.
Last Monday, the Justice Department filed an emergency request to stay Judge Leon’s ruling, stating that the technology used in the NSA’s surveillance program is too complicated to just stop collecting data for a certain number of individuals. Ceasing surveillance for a select group of people may require stopping the collection of data for all American mobile users altogether.
For now, the NSA is keeping tabs on millions of mobile users in the US in order to detect possible connections to terrorist activity. The data collected from phone records include the time and the duration of calls, as well as the phone number being contacted, but not actually the content of the phone conversations.
Back in June earlier this year, the US Congress passed a law that will put an end to the gathering of information from phone records. Instead, the NSA will be permitted to scour the communications databases of various companies and business establishments for such records of phone calls, but only if it has been issued a warrant. That change will take effect this coming November 29th, and government lawyers had urged Judge Leon to permit the NSA to make the transition from the old system to the new system on a schedule it is comfortable with. Obviously, that request was denied by Judge Leon.
The federal judge also refused to stay his order in order to give time for more appeals. But it should be noted that Judge Leon’s decision affects only some of the plaintiffs in this particular lawsuit, since they were able to show in court that information from their phone records were indeed being gathered by the NSA.