Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon
It may be too early to tell whether a federal judges ruling yesterday on the NSA's intelligence gathering practices was illegal and violated the Constitution, but he clearly put the onus on the Obama administration to show why the agencies surveillance program is justified.
Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon summarized it this way, "I cannot imagine a more indiscriminate and arbitrary invasion that this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for the purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on that degree of privacy that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment".
Up to now Edward Snowden's whistleblowing revelations on the NSA's snooping activities has drawn world-wide attention and condemnation from citizens here and abroad as well as from world leaders who have been outraged by the agencies practices targeting them.
Apart from President Obama's personal apologies "assuring" these practices would stop, the administration beyond calling for "an internal review of the NSA's practices" has continued to defend it (you guessed it) for reasons of national security.
In an unrelated development Snowden has asked the Brazilian government to consider giving him permanent asylum expressing his willingness to assist "whenever appropriate and lawful" Brazil's investigation of suspected NSA surveillance on its citizens along with Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff who in September cancelled a planned visit and meeting with President Obama at the White House over published documents revealed by Snowden showed the NSA spying on her as well as Brazil's state run oil company Petrobras.
As to Leon's ruling it is the first federal court decision since Snowden's revelations came to light last summer that formally puts in motion the legal and Constitutional grounds undergirding the NSA's indiscriminate surveillance activities.
It's assumed Leon's ruling will be appealed by the government. And there's been rumblings in Congress where some members have pushed for hearings questioning the "Agencies" activities including the FISA Court which has authorized all its requests and whether the court was just rubber stamping authorization to give it legal cover.
Throw in the previous lies given by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Director Keith Alexander in their testimony before Congressional committees saying the NSA doesn't spy on its citizens and the whole crumbling edifice at Fort Meade needs to be turned into rubble.
That may be wishful thinking what with the NSA's defenders and their obsession with national security at any cost which is driving us closer to an Orwellian future.
But the likes of a Judge Leon gives one hope that there still exists sanity, conscience, integrity and respect for the rule of law by a high level government official whose ruling could help to begin to reverse our present course toward an omnipresent national security surveillance state.