Homeland Security

Federal Judge Displays Skepticism Over NSA Spying, Considers Injunction

Judge Richard Leon suggests legal justification for surveillance is outdated


Steven Nelson
U.S. News & World Report
November 18, 2013


U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon heard arguments Monday for and against a preliminary injunction that could halt dragnet data-collection programs operated by the National Security Agency.

Leon gave Department of Justice attorneys and Larry Klayman, a former Reagan administration prosecutor suing to stop surveillance programs, until Nov. 26 to submit supplementary information, after which he will rule on the injunction request.

"I don't know, frankly, how I'm going to come out," Leon said after hearing arguments in his Washington, D.C., courtroom. "I'm not kidding myself... it's going to the court of appeals and probably to the Supreme Court – one way or the other."

In one of the most substantive exchanges, Leon said Smith v. Maryland – a 1979 Supreme Court case often cited by defenders of surveillance programs – may be outdated.


That landmark ruling found a criminal defendant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over a list of phone numbers dialed within a two-day period.

"Things have changed a little since ‘79," Leon said. "The technology that was being used in that case," he said, "paled in comparison, paled in comparison to the technology the NSA has at its disposal."





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