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Policy: Law

Federal judge rules NSA phone collection likely unconstitutional, suggests data may be destroyed

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,National Security,NSA,Constitutionality,Spying,Law,Mike Pompeo

A federal judge today ruled that the National Security Agency's phone records collection program likely violates the Fourth Amendment -- the first significant defeat for the spy agency's controversial efforts since they were revealed publicly by Edward Snowden.

"I will grant Larry Klayman's and Charles Strange's requests for an injunction and enter an order that (1) bars the government from collecting, as part of the NSA's Bulk Telephony Metadata Program, any telephony metadata associated with their personal Verizon accounts and (2) requires the government to destroy any such metadata in its possession that was collected through the bulk collection program," Richard Leon, U.S. District Judge for the District of Columbia, wrote, adding, "however, in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues, I will stay my order pending appeal."

Larry Klayman is the founder and former chairman of Judicial Watch, a conservative non-profit legal watchdog.

White House press secretary Jay Carney referred questions about the order, which he had not heard of before the press briefing, to the Justice Department.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., made the case for the bulk phone records collection to the Washington Examiner on Friday evening while discussing a Kansas man's attempt to carry out a suicide bombing at a Wichita airport.

"Imagine you found a man trying to commit a terrorist attack in Wichita, Kan.," Pompeo, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said. "It seems to me that we want our law enforcement officials to be able to very quickly identify other links to the terrorist network that this person may be affiliated with, and Section 215 [of the Patriot Act] is a component of the capacity — it's one of the tools — that permits our intelligence community to do that."

Leon was appointed by President George W. Bush, who signed the Patriot Act into law.

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