In a ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon found the NSA’s surveillance of metadata from millions of Americans’ phone calls to be unconstitutional.
Indiana University Maurer School of Law Distinguished Professor Fred Cate says the ruling could serve as a turning point in re-establishing a balance between the rights of the people and the power of the government.
“So up until now we thought as long as the NSA complied with the Federal statutory law – that was it – that was the highest level of review. What this district court in Washington DC said is that ‘No, the NSA must also comply with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S Constitution and in this case that bulk surveillance of telephone dialing records failed to do so,” said Cate.
Cate directs the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research, which filed an Amicus Brief this Summer in the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the NSA’s surveillance.
He says this is probably the beginning of an emerging pattern of judicial action. Federal judges who might have been reluctant to go against the Justice Department and the NSA might now be more inclined to hear cases dealing with privacy and surveillance.
“I think we’re going to see that this is the first of many,” says Cate. “This is often the way that constitutional litigation happens – judges start seeing an issue – then you know you see a dozen cases and you know – eight or nine of them go the same direction.”
Cate says the government will likely appeal Leon’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals and from there it will likely go the Supreme Court.