In the wake of the publication of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) report into the NSA’s collection of domestic phone metadata, a number of voices in the US have echoed the Board’s findings that collection is neither effective nor legal. In the past 48 hours, both the New York Times and the LA Times have published editorials calling for bulk collection to be ended – and even the Republican National Convention has called for an immediate end to “unconstitutional surveillance” and a full investigation into the NSA’s activities.
Exactly one week after President Barack Obama’s speech on US signals intelligence, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden conducted his first live chat since June 2013 on this website. The #AskSnowden hashtag was trending in the US as people put their questions to Snowden on twitter and the event attracted media coverage worldwide.
Judge Richard J. Leon’s ruling of 16 December 2013 in the US district court for the District of Columbia concludes that the NSA’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone metadata likely constitutes “an unreasonable search under the fourth amendement.” This ruling grants an injunction against the collection of the plaintiffs’ metadata, stayed pending appeal.
Less than two weeks after this ruling, Judge William Paley moved to dismiss a similar action brought by the ACLU in the district court of the Southern District of New York. Conflict in the lower courts increases the likelihood that the US Supreme Court will eventually be called upon to adjudicate the issue: see the Guardian article, NSA phone surveillance program likely unconstitutional, federal judge rules, 16 December 2013.