Court: NSA Data Collection Not Authorized by Congress
The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of the phone metadata of American citizens was not authorized. The NSA has claimed the action was warranted under section 215 of the Patriot Act ever since Edward Snowden leaked the information.
The ACLU has argued that it violates fourth amendment rights to protection from warrantless searches. While the judges didn't address Constitutional issues, they did decide that capturing the phone meta data of every American went beyond the scope of section 215 and recognized the potential invasiveness of such a program.
Even though privacy advocates view this as a step in the right direction, the judges did say that the metadata is owned by the phone companies, not the individuals themselves, and that individuals shouldn't expect privacy for records held by a third party.
Despite the ruling, the surveillance program will not stop right away. An appeal could overturn the ruling, or it could all be moot if Congress doesn't re-authorize the Patriot Act when it comes up for renewal in a few weeks.
This is not the first time section 215 has been to court. A previous ruling upheld the program, although it's rankled privacy activists since it was first discovered. Even the White House has said it was looking into alternatives. The NSA has also said it's looking into different methods as well. The House of Representatives has advanced what's known as the USA Freedom Act to offer a reform and limit the metadata collected by the NSA, but it's been opposed by Republicans.