recommended reading

Judge Doubts NSA Program Is Constitutional—but Upholds It Anyway


A federal judge in Idaho upheld the NSA's controversial phone surveillance program Tuesday.

But Judge B. Lynn Winmill seemed to invite the Supreme Court to overturn his decision. He suggested that the program, which collects data on millions of U.S. phone calls, likely violates the Fourth Amendment's prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures.

Winmill upheld the program because he concluded that his hands were tied by current Supreme Court precedent.

He pointed to the Supreme Court's 1979 decision in Smith v. Maryland, which held that people don't expect privacy in the phone numbers they dial.

The controversial NSA program, which was revealed by Edward Snowden last year, collects "metadata" such as phone numbers, call times, and call durations, but not the contents of any conversations.

Last year, Richard Leon, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that the program was likely unconstitutional. Leon argued the NSA's surveillance is far greater than what the court envisioned in Smith v. Maryland, and that the ubiquity of cell phones means that metadata is more revealing than it used to be.

In Tuesday's decision, Winmill wrote that Leon crafted a "thoughtful and well-written decision."

"Judge Leon's decision should serve as a template for a Supreme Court opinion," he wrote. "And it might yet."

But he concluded that he is bound to follow the Smith ruling until the Supreme Court overturns it.

(Image via 360b /

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.