A controversial lawsuit over the NSA’s collection of phone records has resulted in the recent ruling of federal judge Richard Leon, who has called on the NSA to terminate its divisive actions. The decision has been met with praise from those who claim the NSA to be a modern-day example of government overreach, but it seems the ruling will only be of relatively minor consequence.
The news is regarding the Klayman v. Obama lawsuit. The first investigations on the NSA began two years ago in 2013, after Edward Snowden’s infamous data leaks. The U.S. government was soon revealed to be conducting a program involving the collection and surveillance of phone records. Judge Leon ruled later that year, allowing for a momentary injunction that would prevent the NSA from obtaining additional metadata on the plaintiffs. However, the injunction was stayed so that an appeal could be issued, and in the end Leon’s ruling wasn’t held. The DC appeals court overturned the decision after two years, citing the inconclusive evidence on whether or not the plaintiffs were being watched.
Now, the suit has been amended to include additional plaintiffs involved with Verizon Business Network Services. The mention of the program is essential because Snowden’s previous statements definitively concluded that it was part of the government surveillance. The evidence now supports the idea that significant damage was done to citizens and allows for Leon’s injunction to affect the new plaintiffs instead of those initially part of the lawsuit. Leon has pointed to the Fourth Amendment to determine the program’s legality – or lack of it – and stated it was “a sweeping and truly astounding program that targets millions of Americans arbitrarily and indiscriminately.”
However, the USA Freedom Act has prompted the reformation of the NSA’s program and its data collection will end on November 29th. This change means Leon’s decision will not have a lasting effect, and in previous court lawsuits, the narrow timespan contributed to little action. Rather than to force changes on the program, which was admittedly likely unconstitutional, courts ruled to wait on the subsequent program to begin. Privacy has been of utmost concern to citizens lately, and ever since Snowden’s fateful data leak made its splash, the government has been under scrutiny for its surveillance programs. In the technological age of connected smartphones and even the Internet of Things, maintaining the level of privacy you need is certain to be more complex.