Court Finds N.S.A. Phone Data Gathering Program Illegal

A three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the National Security Agency’s once-secret, bulk gathering of phone records of millions of Americans is illegal under the USA Patriot Act, the nation’s main counterterrorism law.

“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,” the court said, according to The Washington Post. 

“We agree with appellants that such an expansive concept of ‘relevance’ is unprecedented and unwarranted.” Plaintiffs included the American Civil Liberties Union.

The New York Times reported, “It is the first time a higher-level court in the regular judicial system has reviewed the program, which since 2006 has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court.”