A judge damns America’s data-collection programmes

James Madison “would be aghast” at America’s vast surveillance programmes. So said Richard Leon, a federal judge hearing a challenge to their constitutionality. On December 16th he issued a blistering 68-page critique, calling the technology used by the National Security Agency (NSA) “almost Orwellian” and ordering it to stop collecting the telephone records of two plaintiffs.Though Judge Leon stayed his ruling pending an appeal, it has set pulses racing in Washington. The case, brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative activist, and others, is one of several challenges to the mass-surveillance programmes disclosed by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the NSA now hiding in Russia. A similar case, brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, is being heard in New York. The Supreme Court will doubtless have the final say.

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