Orin Kerr writes:
In his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, my co-blogger Randy Barnett argues that massive-scale collection of communications metadata by the NSA violates the Fourth Amendment because it is an unreasonable seizure. Randy’s colleague Laura K. Donohue recently argued in the Washington Post that such collection violates the Fourth Amendment as an unreasonable search. Jennifer Granick and Chris Sprigman made a similar argument in the New York Times.
Are they right? Does obtaining all telephony metadata under Section 215 — and then querying the database — violate the Fourth Amendment?
In this post, I’ll start with current law, and I’ll explain why current law supports the conclusion that massive-scale collection of communications meta-data by the NSA does not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of its customers. I’ll then consider alternate views of the Fourth Amendment and explain the prospects and challenges of using the mosaic theory to get to a contrary result.
Read more on The Volokh Conspiracy.