Judge: NSA Surveillance "Indiscriminate" and "Arbitrary Invasion" of Privacy

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Protesters rally against mass surveillance during an event organized by the group Stop Watching Us in Washington, DC on October 26, 2013. (Rena Schild/Shutterstock)

A judge has ruled that widespread phone data-gathering by the NSA may be unconstitutional. Richard J. Leon wrote "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 for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval." Siobhan Gorman, intelligence correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, discusses the ruling and the latest news from the national security world.


Siobhan Gorman

Comments [39]

@Mr. Bad from NYC

"In a technical legal sense the AUMF is tantamount to a declaration of war."

It would probably take a book to explain the legal differences between an AUMF and a declaration of war. In addition to its questionable international legal authority, there are probably dozens of roll-ons and sequelae to a declaration of war that don't follow with an AUMF. (Raising the funds to finance the damned thing is among them!)

I guess the current use of drone strikes falls under the 9/18/2001 AUMF...When Congress decides to reign in that authority, then GWOT will really be over.

Dec. 18 2013 10:39 AM
Vocal fry

Once you know what vocal fry is, it's impossible not to hear it and be annoyed by it. Siobhan Gorman should clear her throat before giving interviews.

Dec. 18 2013 03:40 AM

Edward, the difference is that Amazon, Google etc. are continuously vaulted forward by the momentum of laser-focused purpose.

Obamacare, while internet-related, seems to only a distant relative of purpose, a teetering Frankenstein, born into conception only as Obama's bizarre alternative to Universal Health Care.

The greatest minds can focus on this website but it doesn't work because it makes no sense. Eventually it will morph into something useful but it's very concept seems to be a round peg in a square hole, a testament to both the perceived weakness by Obama of his political self, and simultaneously the great might of the US government and economy. If only Obama used this might to reform banks rather than health insurers, we could celebrate this might patriotically.

Dec. 17 2013 10:05 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights


The fact remains that Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook know more about us than the NSA.

Plus Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook are able to build systems BETTER than the government.

See the Obamacare rollout fiasco.

Dec. 17 2013 12:16 PM
Lenore from Manhattan

Unlike Google, Amazon and other commercial scum, the government can actually put you in jail. I was glad that the guest pointed that out.

Snowden would not be so stupid to actually believe a US govt. offer of amnesty. He is a hero, and I hope he gets amnesty from a reliable source.

Dec. 17 2013 12:04 PM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

I don't understand why people whine about the NSA when Google knows more about everyone on the planet than the NSA, CIA, KGB combined.

And keep posting your idiotic behavior on Facebook.

Dec. 17 2013 11:44 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights


Dec. 17 2013 11:41 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

I hope the NSA is monitoring "rose-ellen" and the people she supports.

Dec. 17 2013 11:35 AM

In terms of gauging efficacy of any one program, I would imagine national security is a lot like marketing- a collection of different data points of various aspects over time. It's no single conference that generates the leads but rather lots of brand inputs- email blasts, sales force, advertising, etc. It's very hard to pin point with any sort of accuracy total ROI of any one part of a marketing program.

For those of you who think the ever increasing horrific domestic terrorism tragedies don't justify sacrificing, well sounds like anything, I guess sandy hook was just another story that didn't affect you personally. I used to be the exact same way until I had children, so I understand where you're coming from even if I strongly disagree. Just be honest with yourself and the world and spare the crocodile tears at the next post-horrific event cocktail party.

Rookies- a difference of opinion doesn't equate to stupidity.

Dec. 17 2013 11:30 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

@ RUCB_Alum

In a technical legal sense the AUMF is tantamount to a declaration of war. The postwar international legal environment make it nearly impossible to "declare war" in the sense you mean without violating international law. I'm not defending the practice but pointing out the reason. As for jgarbuzz he is a Fascist Zionist so he naturally believes that the government "can do anything it wants" during wartime, which is naturally perpetual; the better to promote his personal utopian vision for a Heinlenesque future for Amerika.

Dec. 17 2013 11:21 AM

@jgarbuz from Queens

"The Patriot Act is a wartime act, and in wartime every government..."

Really? Where is the declaration of war? What day did Congress pass that? A 'use of forces' resolution is NOT a declaration of war.

'It's not the job of government to find you a job or to narrow "income gaps" or to suppress the "top 1%."'

Neither should it be the government's job to create wealth for the 1% or increase the gaps. Capital gains is treated far more softly than regular savings. FICA and payroll taxes end at approx. $115K - How is that fair? Do the wealthy not use Medicare? One third of the 'surplus' yielded back from Bush Tax cuts was derived from FICA withholding - How is it fair for the gov't to give rich folks money taken from workers? Wake up.

Dec. 17 2013 10:55 AM
Nick from UWS

There are people on this board who actually want to see the US Government gradually become the KGB. Incredible, the depth of stupidity out there.

Dec. 17 2013 10:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The Patriot Act is a wartime act, and in wartime every government, including our own, can do whatever they want. They can commandeer your car and house if they want to, and drag you and your children off to war. The Constitution guarantees no unwarranted or unreasonable seizures and searches, but in wartime almost everything become reasonable and warranted. We are still technically at war with the Jihadists, as the latter have not surrendered.
But it is a good thing for journalists and the public to constantly question the government as well. This is the hallmark of democracy, to challenge the government, even if it does little good.

Dec. 17 2013 10:38 AM

Brian - telephony includes voice & data (internet included).

As to the caller worried about taking necessary tools from security services, investigation/informants breaks more cases.

Dec. 17 2013 10:34 AM
Joe from nearby

Whatever became of the 1996 Telecommunications Act which protected the privacy of our telephone calls, data, etc?
Did they simply insert exemptions in the so-called Patriot Act? Was it in the phony retroactive immunity legislation, which clearly is unconstitutional?
Does anyone know how they voided the law?

Dec. 17 2013 10:31 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


It's not the job of government to find you a job or to narrow "income gaps" or to suppress the "top 1%." That was in the Soviet Constitution not in the US Constitution.

Dec. 17 2013 10:31 AM
john from office

So the answer to secure our safety is to turn to the Glen Greenwalds of the world?? No thanks. Let him and his boy toy stay in Brazil and let Snowden suffer the results of his actions. Flaming car crash anyone??

Dec. 17 2013 10:30 AM
jgarbuz from Queens


It's not the job of government to find you a job or to narrow "income gaps" or to suppress the "top 1%." That was in the Soviet Constitution not in the US Constitution.

Dec. 17 2013 10:29 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

We had information about the imminent attack on Pearl Harbor, but the analysts and the higher ups were divided and confused as to the meaning of the information and what to do with it.

Dec. 17 2013 10:27 AM
Nick from UWS

LOL - Who could possibly believe that Edward Snowden would be granted "amnesty" in exchange for some kind of "deal"? What idiot could possibly believe that? He would be dead within a month of returning to the US. An unfortunate "suicide". It doesn't matter how much is exposed about the workings of our government, people remain unshakeably naive.

Dec. 17 2013 10:27 AM
John from Brooklyn

Wow, the woman defending NSA spying sounds like a puppet, unfortunately -- has she not heard the whole "line moving" argument? Jesus.

Regarding what else the NSA would do, how about find real jobs? If we took steps to end our corporatist state and lobbying, dealt with the income gap, and made sure people were happier/could find work/support families/etc, that might help ensure fewer incidents like the guest listed (Columbine, etc). As would America's being a decent world citizen and treating other countries as our equals (which we currently don't), that might make our borders more secure.

Spying on citizens IS an activity that should be compared to the Gestapo.

Dec. 17 2013 10:26 AM

Only 3500 Americans have been killed in 13 years by terrorists.

That many are killed by senseless gun violence in 3 months.

IF Americans were REALLY concerned about staying "safe," they would take on the gun lobby.

IF Americans were REALLY concerned about staying "safe," they would insist on more environmental and food safety controls.

With only 3500 dead in 13 years, is it really worth giving up our Constitutional liberties??


Dec. 17 2013 10:25 AM
Robert from NYC

Well, did they catch the shooter in Colorado last week, Long Island caller!? Did they? I'm sick of these paranoid people who think we can catch every crime before it happens. You are safe as can be, caller. In like manner a piano can fall on your head on your way to work one day. What do you want to do about preventing that? Your house can collapse on top of you. What can you do about that?

Dec. 17 2013 10:25 AM
Jeb from Brooklyn

Data doesn't necessarily equal safety. It must be 1) analyzed and 2) acted upon effectively.

In Boston we saw at least one suspect identified by the US and Russian governments as potential threats prior to violence. This information wasn't acted upon. We know the result.

Are we to assume that even with metadata collection our government will behave any more effectively? For what would we surrender our privacy? A myth of greater safety?

Dec. 17 2013 10:24 AM
Betty Lynd from manhattan

The public was angry the government did not "connect the dots" with 9/11. We need to prevent another 9/11. If we want to be safer we need to have some way of connecting those dots.

Dec. 17 2013 10:24 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

All governments, including our own, have spied on their own people in wartime in particular. Even the Constitution doesn't say that the government can't spy on the citizenry, only that "unwarranted searches and seizures" were unconstitutional, but not spying. There is no "right to privacy" in the Constitution. This is a contrived and not specified "right." In wartime, governments will spy on their own people, but in peacetime they shouldn't. In totalitarian regimes, even children are taught to spy on their parents.

Dec. 17 2013 10:24 AM
Wen from Manhattan

This meta-data thing is ridiculous. They claim no one listens to your calls and that is true to an extent. However the voice portion of the calls are parsed by computer and stored, so someone can listen later on. The media needs to ask far more detailed que4stions of those in authority since we always get vague answers.

Dec. 17 2013 10:24 AM
Sandy Prinz from Great Neck, NY

re: on line banking - is the site really secure or am I being naive and maybe stupid to continue banking/paying my bills on line?
Thanks - would love an intelligent answer, Sandy Prinz

Dec. 17 2013 10:22 AM
Robert from NYC

One difference is whether or not you read those "things" when you order online, fact is you initiated the negotiation. With the government there is no warning and you did not initiate any negotiation or dialogue with the NSA.

Dec. 17 2013 10:18 AM

Ugh....In the future, Amazon can target you for drone delivery...The government could target you for a drone strike. See the difference?

Dec. 17 2013 10:17 AM

Macy's can't prosecute,charge me with crimes, kill me...the government can.

Dec. 17 2013 10:17 AM

This decision is making it clear that the GWOT is over! (If it ever really had a reason for being in the first place.) Our security over-reactions after the 9/11/01 attacks are being pulled into sharper focus.

No amnesty for Snowden. He broke his contract. He broke the law. NSA has thousands of contractors. How do they keep them in line if Snowden isn't pursued fully.

Dec. 17 2013 10:16 AM
lcruz from brooklyn

wait, so Snowden disclosing details about programs targeting foreign government is also ok ?

Dec. 17 2013 10:14 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Oh, this is all nonsense. In wartime, governments have been reading mail for centuries. Now, the NSA has no right to read mail or other forms of communications by US citizens, but it has the right to collect information and turn it over to the FBI if it sees suspicious language using computers that see certain patterns. Nothing legally or morally wrong with this, especially in wartime. And we are in an ongoing war with Jihadists sworn to bring this country down. Just as we were with the Communists during the Cold War.

Dec. 17 2013 10:13 AM
Indian Embassy NYC

Washington coverage

Dec. 17 2013 10:11 AM
khadija Boyd from Brooklyn

as well to the idiot: there are NO EMBASSIES in NYC, only Consulates, or whatever..... ;}}} kay

Dec. 17 2013 10:07 AM
Robert from NYC

You're surprised someone used the word telephony?! I guess because I worked for the telephone company it was a commonly used word. Yep, it's a word. Duh.

Dec. 17 2013 10:07 AM
khadija Boyd from brooklyn

too darn cold in Russia! "I wanna go home, like, sorta, Brazil?"
;}}} kay

Dec. 17 2013 10:03 AM
Indian Embassy NYC

A rare display of ethics by the U.S. -- Bravo.

Dec. 17 2013 09:25 AM

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