WASHINGTON D.C. – A federal judge in Washington ruled Monday that the government’s phone records collection program is likely unconstitutional, setting up a major legal hurdle for the Obama administration, which is desperately trying to preserve the intelligence gathering tool.
The decision is ground-breaking, marking the first time a court has ruled against the program and setting up a fascinating constitutional dispute within the federal courts themselves.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen,” Judge Richard J. Leon wrote in a 68-page opinion. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”
Judge Leon’s actual order appears to be narrow — he tells the government to stop collecting and retaining the phone records of the plaintiffs who sued to challenge the program.