Government spying ruled "likely" unconstitutional.

On Monday, a Bush-appointed Federal District Court judge ruled that the N.S.A. is likely violating our Fourth Amendment rights. In a 68-page ruling, Judge Richard J. Leon called the government's collection of so-called meta data “almost Orwellian,” and he was unconvinced by the government's argument that these massive spying programs serve the public interest. He wrote that our government failed to illustrate “a single instance in which analysis of the N.S.A.'s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive.”

Judge Leon made clear that he believes the plaintiffs can prove that government spying violates our Fourth Amendment rights, and issued an injunction to halt the programs. However, he stayed – or put on hold – his own ruling, pending the outcome of the inevitable appeal, “in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case the the novelty of the constitutional issues.” So for now, the government can keep on spying, while privacy advocates and civil rights groups continue their fight to stop government surveillance.

Although this ruling does not yet prevent the N.S.A. from snooping on our communication data, it is the first successful legal challenge against that spying agency. And, it's a sign that our court system could put an end to these massive surveillance programs. Judge Leon wrote that James Madison himself – the author of our Constitution – would be “aghast” to learn of these invasive spying programs. But, it's possible that he would also be proud of the activists, advocates, citizens, and judges who are using that very same document to protect Americans' Fourth Amendment rights.

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