On Thursday a New York federal appeals court ruled the mass collection of phone metadata, granted under Section 215 of The Patriot Act, is illegal.
The 97-page brief, available here, outlines the decision of the court.
The opinion of the court reads:
“This appeal concerns the legality of the bulk telephone metadata collection program (the “telephone metadata program”), under which the National Security Agency (“NSA”) collects in bulk “on an ongoing daily basis” the metadata associated with telephone calls made by and to Americans, and aggregates those metadata into a repository or data bank that can later be queried. Appellants challenge the program on statutory and constitutional grounds. Because we find that the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized, we vacate the decision below dismissing the complaint without reaching appellants’ constitutional arguments. We affirm the district court’s denial of appellants’ request for a preliminary injunction.”
This ruling certainly doesn’t come as welcoming news to NSA advocates who claim the program is justified since it’s post 9/11 conception. The ruling also comes at a critical moment with the NSA provision of the Patriot Act set to expire June 1st.
Cindy Cohn, executive director of Electronic Frontier Foundation praised the ruling in a press release published on their website.
”This is a great and welcome decision and ought to make Congress pause to consider whether the small changes contained in the USA Freedom Act are enough,” Cohn said.
”The 2nd Circuit rejected on multiple grounds the government’s radical reinterpretation of Section 215 that underpinned its secret shift to mass seizure and search of Americans’ telephone records. While the court did not reach the constitutional issues, it certainly noted the serious problems with blindly embracing the third-party doctrine—the claim that you lose all constitutional privacy protections whenever a third-party, like your phone company, has sensitive information about your actions.”
The mass collection of data, which was brought to light by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, caused a slew of presidential hopefuls to take to Twitter to define their stances and capitalize on the news and use it as a stepping-stone for their campaigns.
Rand Paul, Senator from Kentucky, has been the loudest Republican candidate against the collection of data by the NSA. Paul told Breitbart he “he can’t wait for the Supreme Court to eventually rule it unconstitutional.”
RETWEET if you agree with this mornings court ruling that the NSA’s collection of phone records is illegal!
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 7, 2015
Ted Cruiz, Republican Senator from Texas, took the ruling as a chance to support a reform bill he co-authored, but the bill has been criticized by privacy advocates who say it’s much of the same program. (We’ll post an analysis of Cruiz’s reform bill, USA FREEDOM Act, soon.)
Court ruling proves NSA’s data collection program went too far. Congress should immediately pass USA FREEDOM Act http://t.co/787ruPBqNP
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) May 7, 2015
Bernie Sanders, Independent Congressman from Vermont, has said he’s voted against the patriot act every time he could and calls the NSA an Orwellian system. He acknowledged the need to prevent terrorist attacks, but not against the rights of US citizens.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 7, 2015
“Let me be clear: We must do everything we can to protect our country from the serious potential of another terrorist attack. We can and must do so, however, in a way that also protects the constitutional rights of the American people and maintains our free society,” Sanders wrote in Time Magazine.
Though the ruling doesn’t bode well for the NSA, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s coming to an end anytime soon.
“Now that a court of appeal has rejected the government’s arguments supporting its secret shift to mass surveillance, we look forward to other courts—including the Ninth Circuit in EFF’s Smith v. Obama case—rejecting mass surveillance as well,” said EFF Legislative Analyst Mark Jaycox. “With the deadline to reauthorize section 215 looming, we also call on Congress to both expressly adopt the interpretation of the law given by the court and to take further steps to rein in the NSA and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”
One thing is certain; we’ll be hearing a lot more about the NSA in the upcoming weeks.
The Candidate is a contributor and you can reach him by email at [email protected]