Reversal Hasn’t Shaken Judge|in NSA Mass Surveillance Case

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The federal judge who declared the bulk collection of cellphone data unconstitutional urged the government and its opponents to prepare for a quick trial on the matter after the case returned to his courtroom Wednesday.
     Prompting the urgency from U.S. District Judge Richard Leon is the looming Nov. 29 deadline at which the USA Freedom Act takes effect, halting the National Security Agency’s data-collection program entirely.
     “This court believes … that there are millions of Americans whose constitutional rights have been and are being violated,” Leon said during the hour-long hearing Wednesday.
     For this reason, Leon said he would not tolerate any stalling from the government and advised Department of Justice attorney Rodney Patton not to plan any vacations or file any lengthy, time-consuming briefs.
     “I am not going to sit by and let the government run the clock out between now and Nov. 29,” Leon told Patton in court.
     Though Leon found the NSA’s program as “almost Orwellian” in 2013, the D.C. Circuit vacated Leon’s injunction last week and remanded the case because it found that the government’s adversary in the case, conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, lacked standing.
     For the D.C. Circuit, Klayman lacked standing to challenge the government’s metadata program because he couldn’t prove the government recorded and collected his phone calls.
     Leon said in court Wednesday that this is in part because Klayman sued the NSA, Verizon Wireless, President Barack Obama and others, while the government insists it only collected data from Verizon’s business branch.
     Klayman, an attorney whose government-watchdog cases have made him a common fixture in Leon’s court, got a tip from the judge on how to get around this standing issue.
     Leon suggested Klayman move to amend his complaint and add a Verizon business-services client to the list of those challenging the program.
     Leon also suggested Klayman move to expedite the D.C. Circuit’s issuance of the mandate that would cause its decision to take effect, so a more detailed case could get underway before Leon.
     Unless the D.C. Circuit quickly issues a mandate for its holding on the case, Leon said his court would have little time to resolve the case.
     Even without the mandate, however, Leon said he believes he could grant a motion from Klayman to file an amended complaint, which would clear a direct path for Leon to again declare the NSA program unconstitutional.
     Klayman did face rebuke from Leon for accusing the government of lying in court back in 2013.
     The judge said it was “beyond basic common sense” that the government could try to collect the data of every cellphone user in the United States as it said was its goal without including Verizon Wireless’ customers.
     Klayman said he could determine if his phone calls were included in the government’s surveillance program by questioning a government employee with knowledge of the records the NSA maintains.
     Leon agreed that such questioning would likely be fruitful, but would also eat into the precious little time remaining to resolve the case.
     Klayman told reporters after the hearing he plans to move Thursday to expedite the mandate from the D.C. Circuit and will likely file the motion to amend his complaint soon after.

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