WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court in New York on 5/7/15 ruled that the once-secret National Security Agency program that is systematically collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal. The decision comes as a fight in Congress is intensifying over whether to end and replace the program, or to extend it.
In a 97-page ruling, a three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that a provision of the USA #PatriotAct permitting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect business records deemed relevant to a counterterrorism investigation cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit the systematic bulk collection of domestic calling records.
The ruling was certain to increase the tension that has been building in Congress because the provision of the Patriot Act that has been cited to justify the bulk data collection program will expire in June unless lawmakers pass a bill to extend it.
These court rulings are probably going to become moot very soon …. Congress has already indicated that they are going to end the bulk collection of telephone data …. and there is widespread bi-partisan support. On a side note …. this only validates #NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s claims when he first leaked details of this secret NSA program.
Thursday’s ruling is the first time a higher-level court in the regular judicial system has reviewed the N.S.A. phone records program. It did not come with any injunction ordering the program to cease, and it is not clear that anything else will happen in the judicial system before Congress has to make a decision about the expiring law.
The data collection had repeatedly been approved in secret by judges serving on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, which oversees national security surveillance. Those judges, who hear arguments only from the government, were willing to accept an interpretation of Section 215 that the appeals court rejected.
The court, in a unanimous ruling “Section 215 does not authorize the telephone metadata program.” The House appears ready to pass a bill next week- the USA #Freedom Act would replace it with a similar program.