Judge Rules NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


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.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest