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Dec 18, 2013

Judge releases NSA is phone snooping

NSA snooping is on the agenda at the president’s meeting with executives from Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo and other firms — who have lobbied Congress for relief, while the Obama administration has defended the spy agency’s practices.

“I think the companies are going to say they cannot continue to do this, under the covers,” said Jeff Kagan, a technology industry analyst. “If this is going to happen, we’re going to take the covers off and make sure everyone knows this is happening. If it’s going to happen, they don’t want it to be under the covers. It’s time for the light of day to shine on it.”

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon yesterday granted a preliminary injunction against the government collecting phone records, but he put enforcement of that decision on hold pending a near-certain government appeal, which may well end up in the Supreme Court.

‘‘I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’ would be aghast,’’ Leon wrote in his ruling.

The injunction applies only to the two individual plaintiffs, but the ruling is likely to open the door to much broader challenges to the ‘‘metadata’’ collection and storage. Andrew C. Ames, a spokesman for the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement, ‘‘We’ve seen the opinion and are studying it. We believe the program is constitutional as previous judges have found. We have no further comment at this time.’’

The collection of telephone data by the NSA was the first of several leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden that revealed the degree to which Americans’ electronic data was broadly targeted by federal anti-terrorism efforts.

Roger Kay, founder of Endpoint Technologies Associates, Inc., a technology market intelligence company, doubts any court ruling will be able to stop the NSA, which he said was already not supposed to collect data from Americans.

“The court said ‘The fact is you can’t do that thing we already said you can’t do,’” Kay said. “The security services are operating independently. It has been known for a long time that the NSA has been collecting some things that it shouldn’t have. They’re going to say ‘OK we won’t do that anymore.’ I’m not even sure there’s any way to control them.”

Dec 6, 2013