Federal judge in Idaho dismisses lawsuit but raises questions about NSA surveillance

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A federal judge raised privacy questions while dismissing a lawsuit filed by an Idaho woman against President Barack Obama regarding National Security Agency collection of cellphone information.

U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill ruled Tuesday that under a U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the NSA's collection of such data doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches.

Winmill noted, however, that another case filed in Washington, D.C., found otherwise and might reach the high court. That ruling was stayed pending appeal.

The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/1mT1ndv ) reported that in his decision last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote that earlier court cases were from an era before cellphones and that people have an entirely different relationship with telephones now.

"Records that once would have revealed a few scattered tiles of information about a person now reveal an entire mosaic, a vibrant and constantly updating picture of the person's life," Leon wrote last year.

In his ruling Tuesday, Winmill wrote: "Judge Leon's decision should serve as a template for a Supreme Court opinion. And it might yet."

The Idaho case was filed by Anna J. Smith of Coeur d'Alene. Her attorneys were state Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d'Alene, and Smith's husband, Peter J. Smith IV.

Malek said Smith plans to appeal Winmill's ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"We were very encouraged by the language" in the Idaho judge's decision, Malek said. "We knew there wasn't a lot of Supreme Court authority with regard to this sort of collection."

Smith, a nurse, assumed she was being monitored because she had a Verizon cellphone. She sued the president, director of national intelligence, NSA director, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

She contended that her cellphone was her primary means of communication with family, friends, doctor and others, and that her communications were none of the government's business.

Winmill found that Smith had standing to sue but couldn't prevail under current court precedent.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com