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Everything You Need to Know About Today's Court Ruling on NSA Spying

See why a federal judge slammed the government's surveillance program as 'almost-Orwellian'

Edward Snowden
The Guardian via Getty Images
December 16, 2013 4:50 PM ET

Score one for Edward Snowden. In the first judicial challenge of the NSA's constant, suspicionless surveillance of Americans' cell phone records, a federal judge appointed by George W. Bush ruled that the "metadata program" is likely unconstitutional: "The plaintiffs have a substantial likelihood of showing that . . . the NSA's bulk collection program is indeed an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment," wrote District Judge Richard J. Leon. Today's ruling granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction – but stayed that order at least six months pending the Obama administration's inevitable appeal.

Here are the seven most scathing one-liners from Judge Leon's decision:

1. "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen . . ."

2. ". . . the almost-Orwellian technology . . ."

3."Records that once would have revealed a few scattered tiles of information about a person now reveal an entire mosaic – a vibrant constantly updating picture of a person's life."

4. "No court has ever recognized a special need sufficient to justify continuous, daily searches of virtually every American citizen without any particularized suspicion. The Government urges me to be the first non-FISC judge to sanction such a dragnet."

5. "The Government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA's bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack . . ."

6. Because of "the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist act has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics – I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program . . ."

7. "I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison . . . would be aghast."

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