It is now illegal for the NSA to collect bulk phone records according to the federal appeals court in New York. In a 97 page ruling the court struck down section 215 of Patriot Act which previous interpretation allowed for collection.
The court, in a unanimous ruling written by Judge Gerard E. Lynch, held that Section 215 “cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.” It declared the program illegal, saying, “We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.”
The New York Times reports congress is about to take up the fight to determine whether the Patriot Act needs to be extended or replaced, by the June 1 expiration deadline.
The ruling was certain to increase the tension that has been building in Congress as the provision of the act that has been cited to justify the bulk data collection program nears a June 1 expiration. It also comes amid a global uptick in controversy over electronic surveillance, including a push in France to increase domestic spying and a decision by Germany to reduce cooperation on surveillance with the United States.
The appeals court sent the matter back to a Federal District Court judge to decide what to do next. The government could also appeal the ruling to the full appeals court, or to the Supreme Court. Parallel cases are pending before two other appeals courts that have not yet ruled.
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