This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
TheStreet Open House

Judge Slams NSA's Verizon Records Dragnet as 'Unconstitutional'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- A federal judge has sided with the plaintiffs against the Obama administration in a suit claiming, in part, that the National Security Agency's broad collection of phone records from Verizon Communications (VZ) and others is unconstitutional, according to court documents.

Describing the program as employing "almost-Orwellian technology," U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said the mass collection of data probably violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting unlawful search and seizure. He drew a sharp distinction between the current NSA program and the programs under consideration during important legal precedents. The most notable of those, Smith v. Maryland of 1979, involved the occasional handing over of phone numbers at the request of law enforcement. 

"The question is this case can be more properly styled as follows: When do present-day circumstances . . . become so thoroughly unlike those considered by the Supreme Court thirty-four years ago that a precedent like Smith does not apply? The answer, unfortunately for the Government, is now."

The Smith case involved a hand-written register at the phone company which, at the request of law enforcement, was used to record numbers dialed from certain phones. By comparison, the NSA program may have included the collection of millions of phone records from individuals suspected of no crime.

"The notion that the Government could collect similar data on hundreds of millions of people and retain that for a five-year period, updating it with new data every day in perpetuity, was at best, in 1979, the stuff of science fiction," Judge Leon wrote.

In ruling that the NSA program was likely unconstitutional, the judge also noted the effect changing technology has had on the way people interact with their phones.

The revelations about the NSA program came about as a direct result of leaks by Edward Snowden beginning in June to reporters at specific news outlets, including The Guardian and The New York Times.

Quoted by The Guardian through journalist Glenn Greenwald, Snowden said, "Today, a secret program authorised by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many." Greenwald is a key contact for Snowden and first published the leaked information in articles for The Guardian.

The complainants sued for the removal of their names and associated data from the NSA's database. The judge emphasized that the government's argument for not granting the injunction was insufficient. Due to the national security interests involved in the government's data collection programs, the judge issued a stay of his ruling pending appeal.

--Written by Carlton Wilkinson in New York and Asbury Park

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 17,031.14 +43.63 0.26%
S&P 500 1,984.13 -1.41 -0.07%
NASDAQ 4,518.9020 -48.6960 -1.07%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs