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

in Sports

Grand jury to weigh case against Stewart in fatal crash

stewart

The case of a fatal dirt-track accident involving the three-time NASCAR champion will be heard by a grand jury.

in Viral Videos

Barbra Streisand on late-night TV for first time in 50 years

19-overlay1

And part of her appearance included singing duets with Jimmy Fallon.

in Music

KISS raises $1M for military museum

tommythayer

The rockers helped raise money for the renovation of a military museum in Oregon named after guitarist Tommy Thayer's father.

in Music

Queen honors Freddie Mercury with new vodka

freddie-mercury

The Stoli-made limited edition vodka marks the 40th anniversary of the band's hit single, "Killer Queen."

in Music

Poison planning 2015 tour

bretmichaels

It appears the rockers are heading back out on the road.