A U.S. judge has ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of phone data is unconstitutional. Federal Judge Richard Link wrote in his opinion (.pdf file) that the agency's surveillance breaks the Fourth Amendment, describing it as like something out of a George Orwell novel.
"Given the limited record before me at this point in the litigation—most notably, the utter lack of evidence that a terrorist attack has ever been prevented because searching the NSA database was faster than other investigative tactics," wrote the judge, "I have serious doubts about the efficacy of the metadata collection program as a means of conducting time-sensitive investigations in cases involving imminent threats of terrorism."
The ruling brought Edward Snowden out of hibernation as he described the judge's findings as having justified his disclosure program. "I acted on my belief that the NSA's mass surveillance programs would not withstand a constitutional challenge, and that the American public deserved a chance to see these issues determined by open courts," he said in a statement via Glenn Greenwald. "Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights. It is the first of many."
Snowden has been described by a fellow NSA worker as a "genius of geniuses." The whistleblower's colleague, who wished to remain anonymous, was full of admiration for Snowden, saying that he stood up for a co-worker who was being bawled out by a boss, had a copy of the U.S. constitution on his desk in order to argue against NSA policies that violated it, and wandered around in an EFF hoodie, which has a pastiche of the NSA logo on it. When Snowden's prowess was noted by bosses, he was asked to build the front end of a new website and given administrative powers. "Big mistake in hindsight," says the colleague. "But if you had a guy who could do things nobody else could, and the only problem was that his badge was green instead of blue, what would you do?"