The NSA's first major legal setback, the Harvard bomb scare, and more from the Slatest PM.

Slatest PM: The NSA's First Major Legal Setback

Slatest PM: The NSA's First Major Legal Setback

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Dec. 16 2013 5:08 PM

Slatest PM: The NSA's First Major Legal Setback

Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander speaks during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee December 11, 2013 on Capitol Hill

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.

NSA's Phone Snooping Might Not Be So Constitutional After All: Washington Post: "A federal judge in Washington said Monday that the National Security Agency’s widespread collection of telephone records of millions of Americans is likely unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon found that the lawsuit by activist Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch, has 'demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success' on the basis of Fourth Amendment privacy protections against unreasonable searches. Leon granted Klayman’s request for a preliminary injunction that blocks the controversial program. But the judge stayed action on his ruling pending a government appeal in recognition of the 'significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues,' Leon wrote ...."


First Legal Setback: New York Times: "The ruling is the first successful legal challenge brought against the program since it was revealed in June after leaks by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden. It was brought by several plaintiffs led by Larry Klayman, a conservative public-interest lawyer. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a similar lawsuit in the Southern District of New York. ... Though long and detailed, the ruling is not a final judgment, but rather a preliminary injunction to stop the data collection while the plaintiffs pursued the case. It turned on whether there was a substantial likelihood that they would ultimately succeed and whether they would suffer substantial harm in the meantime."

The Money Quote: "The question that I will ultimately have to answer when I reach the merits of this case someday is whether people have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the government, without any basis whatsoever to suspect them of any wrongdoing, collects and stores for five years their telephony metadata for purposes of subjecting it to high-tech querying and analysis without any case-by-case judicial approval," Leo wrote in his 68-page opinion. "For the many reasons set forth above, it is significantly likely that on that day, I will answer that question in plaintiffs’ favor."


It's Monday, December 16th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees, and the whole team at @Slatest.

Anti-Bacterial Soap Not so Anti-Bacterial: Associated Press: "After more than 40 years of study, the federal government said Monday it has no evidence that the anti-bacterial chemicals used in countless common soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and it is reviewing research suggesting they may pose health risks. Regulators at the Food and Drug Administration said they are revisiting the safety of chemicals such as triclosan in light of recent studies that suggest the substances can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. The government's preliminary ruling lends new support to outside researchers who have long argued that the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health."


Harvard Bomb Scare: Boston Globe: "[A] bomb scare at Harvard University today was triggered by an e-mail warning that explosives had been planted in four buildings at the heart of the storied campus, according to a law enforcement official. At 2:44 p.m., the university announced that the Science Center, the last of the four buildings, had been deemed safe. Law enforcement officials had already combed through and cleared Thayer Hall, a freshman dorm, and Sever and Emerson halls, two buildings that contain lecture halls. Thayer, Emerson, and Sever are all located inside the ancient Harvard Yard section of the campus. The Science Center stands just outside the Yard. ... According to the school’s academic calendar, final exams are scheduled for this week for undergraduates. College officials said they were working to identify and reschedule exams that were disrupted by evacuations of the buildings. Officials also planned to make an announcement about the impact on afternoon exams as soon as possible, a university spokesman said in an e-mail."

Update From the Ukraine: USA Today/AP: "Vitali Klitschko is leaving boxing to concentrate on Ukrainian politics and his role as an opposition leader. Klitschko vacated his WBC world heavyweight title on Monday and said he doesn't expect to fight again as he pursues a presidential bid in his home country. The World Boxing Council proclaimed Klitschko a 'Champion Emeritus,' a move that would allow him to challenge the new champion directly should he wish to resume his career. ... Klitschko is a lawmaker and chairman of the opposition party Udar (Punch) and intends to run for president in 2015. Massive crowds have demonstrated for weeks in Kiev to protest President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to shun closer ties with the European Union and push his country toward Russia. Klitschko has taken an active part in the rallies, urging his countrymen to continue their fight to turn the ex-Soviet republic into a genuine Western democracy."

Friday's HS Shooting: Denver Post: "Students at Arapahoe High School should have been studying for finals Monday, powering through their last week of classes before Christmas break. Instead, authorities continue to walk the school's hallways, piecing together the 80 seconds that terrified a community and left Claire Davis in a coma, fighting for her life. Davis remained in critical condition Sunday evening, according to a statement from her family, who praised first responders and asked the community to continue thinking of and praying for the 17-year-old. ... The senior was shot point-blank in the head Friday after she found herself in the path of Karl Pierson, who had fired several random rounds in the hallway before he shot Davis. Pierson, an 18-year-old senior, stormed into the school at about 12:30 p.m., carrying a pump-action shotgun, a bandolier of ammunition, a machete and three Molotov cocktails. Seconds later, Pierson turned the gun on himself. Officers found his body in a corner of the library."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.