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 Local

Governor’s Latest Town Hall Is Being Held In Bar Harbor


BAR HARBOR, Maine (AP) Gov. Paul LePage is holding another town hall meeting.

in Local

Farmington Officer Will Head to Trial in Shooting Death


A Farmington police officer will head to trial on charges of excessive force in the 2011 shooting of an Army veteran outside the town police station.

in Local

Drugs, Guns, Conservation Among Proposed Maine Legislation


Lawmakers and state agencies in Maine have submitted more than 400 requests for bills for the upcoming legislative session.

in Local

Police: Man Found Dead Overdosed on Computer Dust Cleaner


Maine's chief medical examiner says a man found dead near an Ellsworth storage building died from an overdose of computer dust cleaner.

in Local

LePage Administration Officials Decline to go Before Panel


Two members of the LePage administration are declining to appear before a legislative panel that's reviewing allegations Gov. Paul LePage threatened to withhold funding for a private school that tried to hire a political opponent.


  • 12h
  • 13h
  • 13h
  • 13h
  • 15h
  • 16h
  • 18h