A federal judge in Washington said Monday the National Security Agency’s mass collection of phone records violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches.
The federal government is justifying the NSA program based on old precedent that has since been surpassed by “technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable,” Judge Richard Leon of U.S. District Court ruled, according to NBC News.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” the judge added, according to CNN.
Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush, put his ruling on hold, however, to allow the government to appeal, according to NBC News.
The collection program was disclosed by former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, provoking a heated debate over civil liberties. The Obama administration has defended the program as a crucial tool against terrorism.
But in his a 68-page, heavily footnoted opinion, Leon concluded that the government didn’t cite a single instance in which the program “actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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