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

This week’s top sports shots

worldseries

A look at some of this week's best moments in sports.

in Music

This week’s top rock tracks

slash

LISTEN: This week's top rock tracks, according to the latest Billboard charts.

in Sports

This weekend’s sports schedule

fsu

A complete look at this weekend's sports schedule.

in Music

AC/DC fuel Phil Rudd rumors with line-up photos

Malcolm Young, Cliff Williams, Angus Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC
Premiere of 'AC/DC - Live at River Plate' at Hammersmith Apollo - Arrivals London, England - 06.05.11

Promotional pictures of the band's new line-up don't show the drummer.

in Sports

Prosecutor wants Pistorius to serve 10 years

pistorius

Prosecutors want the Olympic star to be jailed for at least 10 years for killing his girlfriend on Valentine's Day.