A U.S. district court judge ruled on Monday that a NSA surveillance program employed by the agency that collects the phone records of virtually all American citizens is "almost certainly" unconstitutional.
Federal court Judge Richard Leon, a George W. Bush administration appointee, made the ruling in a lawsuit brought by conservative activists Larry Klayman and Charles Strange, challenging the massive surveillance program disclosed earlier in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Judge Leon issued a preliminary injunction against the spy program but suspended the order to allow an appeal by the Justice Department.
"The court concludes that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the government's bulk collection and querying of phone record metadata, that they have demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of their Fourth Amendment claim and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent…relief,'' Leon wrote.
Judge Leon also expressed doubt about the argument by the NSA that the program is necessary for preventing terrorist attacks.
“The government does not cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack,” wrote Leon.
Critics of Monday's federal court ruling argue that NSA meta data collection is legal and subject to extensive congressional and judicial oversight.
In June, members of the House and Senate Intelligence Commitees held hearings to examine the controversial spy program and concluded the program was legal. Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss testified:
"This is nothing particularly new. This has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) authority and every member of the United States Senate has been advised of this."
The White House declined to comment on Monday's controversial NSA ruling.
Monday's federal court ruling is extremely significant, it is the first federal court ruling on the NSA program since the documents were leaked to the public in June by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, exposing the program for the first time to the public.
However, the ruling is the first step in a long battle that in all likelihood will end in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the meantime, the ruling will not stop the NSA spy program from continuing to collect U.S. citizens phone records.
To read Judge Leon's 68 page ruling in full, click HERE.