Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mass surveillance is unconstitutional

A US federal judge has told us what we all knew the moment we learned of it: that the NSA's mass surveillance is unconstitutional:

A federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the US constitution, in the most significant legal setback for the agency since the publication of surveillance disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Judge Richard Leon declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was "almost Orwellian" in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be "aghast" at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans' communications data.

An injunction has been issued, but suspended to allow the NSA to appeal. That battle is going to go all the way to the Supreme Court, who will hopefully uphold the right of US citizens not to have their phones tracked and tapped without probable cause. And if they don't, then the US constitution will be a dead letter - which is a pretty frightening prospect.

As for Snowden, he's been instrumental in exposing this major constitutional violation by the government. Instead of threatening to prosecute him, they should be giving him a medal.