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A Federal Judge Could Halt the NSA's Phone Data Collection Program This Week

A federal judge could order the NSA to stop collecting phone records on Thursday, six weeks before the practice will be outlawed by legislation passed this summer.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

A federal judge who already ruled once against the administration of President Barack Obama and the National Security Agency in a lawsuit over the spy agency's phone record collection program is set to make another decision about the case on Thursday.

The lawsuit, brought by activist Larry Klayman in 2013, challenges the constitutionality of the NSA's phone record gathering practices. The case quickly resulted in a preliminary injunction to stop the practice by US District Court Judge Richard Leon, who said it was likely unconstitutional.


The government appealed the decision, however, and Leon stayed his injunction, allowing the data collection to continue while the case wound its way through the appeals process.

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On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ended the government's appeals and sent the case back to Leon's courtroom. Now, Leon could lift his stay and put in place a new preliminary injunction, forcing the NSA to stop collecting the data.

The ruling would be somewhat symbolic, as legislation passed this summer by Congress to replace the Patriot Act will see the program's demise on November 29 regardless of the outcome of Klayman's case. The preliminary injunction would also only stop the practice while the rest of the case was argued.

Still, according to Klayman, Leon said he wanted to move quickly to end the program during a status conference last month, and the judge reportedly intends to grant the injunction and halt the program as quickly as possible.

According to an announcement by Klayman released on Wednesday, Leon "expressed his intention to move quickly to obtain the new evidence and likely enter a new preliminary injunction, as one day of a violation of the Constitution is one day too much."

"We are thankful that this courageous judge is protecting the American people," Klayman said in a statement. "If judges like Leon, and they are regrettably very few these days, will not step in against the abuses of our political elite, then we are all left defenseless during this age of rampant illegality by the establishment."

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Klayman's case is one of a handful of legal challenges brought against the NSA's program, including another challenge by the ACLU in New York. Klayman did not immediately return calls for comment from VICE News.

The new legislation, the USA Freedom Act, will prevent the NSA from collecting phone data in bulk, but will expedite the process of requesting data from phone companies.

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