News

U.S. judge rules phone surveillance program is likely unlawful

U.S. judge rules phone surveillance program is likely unlawful

PHONE TAP: Judge says the government's collection of massive amounts of data about telephone calls is likely unlawful. Photo: Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government’s collection of massive amounts of data about telephone calls, a program revealed in June after leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, is likely unlawful, a judge ruled on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon stayed his own ruling pending an expected appeal by the government, but in a significant challenge to U.S. spying authority, he wrote that the program likely violated Americans’ right to be free of unreasonable searches.

“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,” Leon wrote, citing earlier court precedent.

The U.S. Justice Department was reviewing the ruling, a spokesman said.

The British newspaper The Guardian reported in June that a U.S. surveillance court had secretly approved the collection of millions of raw daily phone records, such as the length of calls and the numbers that are dialed. The data collected do not include actual conversations, U.S. officials said.

Civil liberties advocates have called the database an intrusion on privacy and they sued to end it, while the government has said the ability to search data going back seven years is crucial to fighting militant groups such as al Qaeda.

Leon expressed skepticism of the program’s value, writing that the government could not cite a single instance in which the bulk data actually stopped an imminent attack.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Howard Goller, Chizu Nomiyama and Bernard Orr)

Latest Headlines

8 hours ago in Viral Videos

The cicadas are coming …

24-overlay

Billions of cicadas will soon emerge after spending 17 years underground and they have a lot of catching up to do.

10 hours ago in Sports

Stuard wins in New Orleans after playoff

14-overlay

Journeyman Brian Stuard clinched his first PGA Tour title with a gripping playoff victory over fellow American Jamie Lovemark and South Korean An Byeong-hun at the weather-plagued Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Monday.

12 hours ago in Music

Nikki Sixx wants to help the next guy

nikkisixx961740673643

The Motley Crue rocker says it's important to champion new bands, as he’s been in the same boat.

13 hours ago in Sports, Viral Videos

It’s not ‘Regulators:’ Warren G butchers ‘Ball Game’

20-overlay-1

WATCH: The rapper messed up the first line and sang off-key.

15 hours ago in Music

Wes Scantlin arrested following concert

wesscantlin

The troubled Puddle of Mudd star has been arrested after missing a court date in his vandalism case.