Appeals Court: NSA Surveillance Program Illegal

By Paul Gable

The US 2nd District Court of Appeals ruled this week the bulk collection of telephone data by the NSA (National Security Agency) is unlawful.

This decision not only overturned an earlier decision by a US District Court, but also demonstrates how out of touch the Obama White House is with what is legal in surveillance programs as is Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The ruling gives credence to a 2014 independent report from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that called the collection program illegal and said it should be ended.

The report said the bulk telephone records program lacked a viable legal foundation with “serious threats to privacy and civil liberties” with only “limited value.” The report also called for NSA to purge its files of these records.

The appeals court said the NSA collection exceeded the provisions of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is up for reauthorization before it runs out at the end of this month.

However, the court did not rule an end to the NSA domestic collection program, preferring instead to allow Congress an opportunity to make changes in the program.

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to reauthorize Section 215.

But, the court, in its decision, concluded, ““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. 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.”

If Congress reauthorizes the Patriot Act provisions, we could see harsher court rulings result.

Frankly, it’s time someone reigned in Congress and its stomping all over the civil rights of American citizens. This ruling, at least, allows us to conclude that the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution is not dead.

“Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.” Benjamin Franklin

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