A federal judge ruled today that the NSA’s mass collection of telephone records is unconstitutional. Via Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden released this statement:
“I acted on my belief that the N.S.A.’s mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts,” Mr. Snowden said. “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many.”
Well, I hope so. But keep in mind that Snowden didn’t expose this program to the light of day. We’ve known about it in fuzzy terms since late 2005, and in very specific terms since 2006, when Leslie Cauley reported it in USA Today. The agency’s goal, she wrote then, was to create a database of “every call ever made” within the nation’s borders. In the intervening seven years, this revelation has basically produced nothing except a collective yawn.
I’m delighted that Snowden helped this get more attention, and delighted that a judge wants it to stop. But district court judges make lots of rulings that never go anywhere, and this is most likely one of them. Unfortunately, recent history suggests that neither the American public nor Congress—and apparently not the president either—is inclined to seriously rein in the NSA’s phone record surveillance.