Monday, December 16, 2013

Federal judge says NSA "meta-data" surveillance on cell phones and Internet contacts violated 4th Amendment

Federal Judge Richard J. Leon of the Washington DC circuit has ruled, on Klayman v. Obama, that the NSA “metadata” surveillance program based on citizen phone records is an unconstitutional abuse of the Fourth Amendment. He ruled that it was an unreasonable extension of an earlier 1979 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the government to keep “pen registers”.  The concept is no longer reasonable in the age of mobile communications and Internet. 
The link for the opinion is here.
The judge stayed the implementation of his ruling during the appeals process (for six months).
 The ruling seems to have been influenced by the enormous volume of material released by Edward Snowden, and the trivial nature of almost all of it.
The judge said that he was not persuaded that the government had stopped any terrorist attacks that wouldn’t have been detected by more conventional “pre-crime” investigation methods. 
It does seem reasonable, though, that metadata might find an attack in possible planning, such as a recent plot to explode a truck bomb at the Wichita, KS airport, which was stopped by an FBI sting.   Imagine a plot to detonate an EMP device!  How would it be detected in advance?
As for my own low-volume phone calls, the NSA is too sinful to notice.  So was Snowden. 

On Dec. 18, various media outlets reported long meetings at the White House between Obama and CEO's of telecommunications and web hosting companies, who warned that surveillance (and government's expecting complicity in doing so) can undermine business models.  IBM, ATT, Verizon and Cisco were particularly vocal according to reports.  I haven's seen much yet in my interaction with these busiensses.  
(First) picture: Bizarre purple color in clouds in sunset Dec. 15 near Raleigh, NC. (25 miles east of town). Second picture: Hawaii (estate photo). 

Update: Dec. 27

A federal judge in New York has made a ruling contradicting the DC court ruling.  CNN story is here.  I've have more detailed coverage (with links to new court opinions) on a new posting soon.  This looks headed for the Supreme Court, pronto.   

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