The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the NSA bulk data collection program is illegal. The decision is a major legal victory for opponents of the program and will likely make the current debate in Congress over extending provisions in the PATRIOT Act even more intense.
The Hill reports:
"That program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. The law “cannot be interpreted in a way that defies any meaningful limit,” he added."
Further, the court ruled that the government's current enforcement of the PATRIOT Act could lead to unprecedented expansion to include metadata in other areas in the private sector.
“If the government is correct, it could use § 215 to collect and store in bulk any other existing metadata available anywhere in the private sector, including metadata associated with financial records, medical records, and electronic communications (including e‐mail and social media information) relating to all Americans,” Lynch wrote. “Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.”
Read the full article from The Hill here.
What's especially significant about this ruling is that this is the first time a higher court in the regular judicial system has reviewed the NSA's bulk data collection program. Since 2006, such practices by the intelligence community have been approved by a secret national security court.
The New York Times reports:
"In declaring the program illegal, the judges said, “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far‐reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.” The House appears ready to pass a bill next week that would end the government’s bulk collection of phone records, but it has faced resistance from the Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader. A similar bill died in the Senate in November after Mr. McConnell urged Republicans to block an up-or-down vote on it with a filibuster. Mr. McConnell urged a “clean extension” of Section 215 this time so the program could continue in its present form."