[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF] against part of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) [official website] surveillance program that collects domestic phone records in bulk. Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] said that the program was most likely unconstitutional and shut down the program just weeks before the NSA was scheduled to scrap it and replace it. In his opinion, Leon stated that the constitutional issues related to the program were “too important” to leave unanswered after questions regarding the program arose after its inception soon after September 11, 2001. He further noted:
With the government’s authority to operate the bulk telephony metadata program quickly coming to an end, this case is perhaps the last chapter in the judiciary’s evaluation of this particular program’s compatibility with the Constitution. … It will not, however, be the last chapter in the ongoing struggle to balance privacy rights and national security interests under our Constitution in an age of evolving technological wizardry.
On October 30 the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied [JURIST report] a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to halt the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA. The court ruled that Congress intended for the agency to continue its data collection over the transition period, and the new legislation was to take effect November 29. In August the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed [JURIST report] a ruling that had blocked the NSA from obtaining call detail records from US citizens. In June 2013 the ACLU, in conjunction with the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit [JURIST report] against the NSA challenging its phone data collection. The NSA had been collecting mass data under the USA PATRIOT Act since it was signed into law in 2001, but the program was only brought to light in 2013 after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.