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Ruling says NSA metadata collection is "likely unconstitutional"

PEN American Center welcomes with cautious optimism today (16 December 2013) a ruling that NSA telephone metadata collection is “likely to be unconstitutional,” made by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in the case of legal activist Larry Klayman. Judge Leon issued the first injunction against NSA surveillance, barring further collection of metadata pertaining to the Verizon accounts of Klayman and one of his clients, Politico reported today. Judge Leon stayed his injunction pending appeal.

“Judge Leon's decision today marks a milestone in the fight against unchecked government surveillance, a fight PEN has waged for years,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “Writers, journalists, human rights workers, and Americans from all walks of life have long feared that the government was watching over their shoulders, but previous court rulings have denied their challenges to these infringements. Judge Leon's decision today gives us hope that that courts will do their job of restoring respect for personal privacy, protection of creative freedom, and reestablishment of trust in the role of government. We urge the courts to uphold future challenges to unjustified bulk surveillance.”

PEN American Center deeply opposes unchecked surveillance, not only as an infringement on Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, but also as a direct attack on free speech and creativity as guaranteed by the First Amendment. A November 2013 report entitled Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor by PEN demonstrates that nearly one-in-four American writers has engaged in self-censorship motivated by concerns over NSA surveillance. PEN's 2012 Declaration on Digital Freedom, approved by 20,000 of the world's best writers, sets out a bill of rights to protect writers and all creators from intrusions on their freedom in the digital age.

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