UK & World News

  • 16 December 2013, 20:55

NSA Phone Surveillance 'Likely Unlawful'

The bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency violates the US Constitution, a federal judge has ruled.

US District Court Judge Richard Leon says the spying programme is an unreasonable search under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

The judge put his decision on hold pending a nearly certain government appeal.

He did, however, grant a preliminary injunction sought by plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, concluding they were likely to prevail in their constitutional challenge.

The two men are attempting to show that their privacy interests outweigh the government's interest in collecting the data.

The collection programme was disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, provoking a heated debate over civil liberties.

In his 68-page opinion, Judge Leon concluded that the government did not cite a single instance in which the programme "actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack".

"I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection programme as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism," he wrote.

He said was staying his ruling pending appeal "in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues".

The Obama administration has defended the programme as a crucial tool against terrorism.

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