[NYTimes] Judge Questions Legality of N.S.A. Phone Records
A federal district judge ruled on Monday that the National Security Agency program that is systematically keeping records of all Americans’ phone calls most likely violates the Constitution, describing its technology as “al most Orwellian” and suggesting that James Madison would be “aghast” to learn that the government was encroaching on liberty in such a way.
The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, ordered the government to stop collecting data on the personal calls of the two plaintiffs in the case and to destroy the records of their calling history. [...]
Similar legal challenges to the N.S.A. program, including by the American Civil Liberties Union and the advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, are at earlier stages in the courts. [...]
Judge Leon rejected the Obama administration’s argument that a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, had established there are no Fourth Amendment protections for call metadata — information like the numbers dialed and the date, time and duration of calls, but not their content. The 1979 case, which involved collecting information about a criminal defendant’s calls, helped establish the principle that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy for information they have exposed to a third party, like the phone company, which knows about their calls. [...]