A federal appeals court ruled today that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass data collection program is illegal and overreaching, reported The Washington Post.
The NSA’s mass spying program was made public by security contractor Edward Snowden nearly two years ago. His leaks created a constructive national debate about what powers American intelligence agencies should have.
The 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York said that “the government stretched the meaning of the statute to enable the vast collection of Americans’ data from U.S. phone companies on a daily basis without a warrant.” The statute in question is Section 215 of the Patriot Act and was said to be authorized by the White House and ruled legal by some federal judges.
According to the Court:
The government takes the position that the metadata collected – a vast amount of which does not contain directly “relevant” information, as the government concedes – are nevertheless “relevant” because they may allow the NSA, at some unknown time in the future, utilizing its ability to sift through the trove of irrelevant data it has collected up to that point, to identify information that is relevant.
We agree with appellants that such an expansive concept of “relevance” is unprecedented and unwarranted.
Essentially, the court is saying that the NSA took more information from people than they actually needed. It’s simple to see where the NSA overreached its authority under the guise of protecting America’s national security.
The Washington Post noted how this case has “split the lower courts” and caused contention between members of Congress. Because there’s a lack of common judicial opinion concerning the NSA’s overreach, it’s likely the case will go to the Supreme Court.
“We hold that the text of Section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” said the judges. “We conclude that to allow the government to collect phone records only because they may become relevant to a possible authorized investigation in the future fails even the permissive ‘relevance’ test.”
Republicans praised the court’s ruling because it’s a strike against something that happened on President Obama’s watch. Level-headed people praise the ruling because it addresses the abuse of power exhibited by governmental powers.