US Court of Appeals rules against NSA bulk collection of metadata

In a somewhat surprising ruling, the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in a case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union right after the enormous dump of NSA and GCHQ documents by Edward Snowden in 2013. The ODNI has argued that the bulk collection of American metadata was authorized by Congress under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, but the Court of Appeals apparently disagrees.

This lawsuit has had its share of ups and downs since it's filing, with a lower court dismissing the case because they found that the individual parts of the Act were beyond judicial review, and did not even allow for the ACLU to present their constitutional arguments. The Court of Appeals, however, overruled their dismissal and has now released their ruling that Section 215 did not authorize the bulk metadata collection

Because we find that the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized, we vacate the decision below dismissing the complaint without reaching appellants’ constitutional arguments.

What this means is that the ACLU will have an opportunity to present their case in full, and argue the unconstitutionality of the US Governments bulk metadata collection. It does not mean that the program will end immediately, only that it isn't authorized by Congress specifically; nor does it mean that that all NSA spying has been ruled illegal as some outlets are reporting.

It is, however, a victory for those who have opposed the bulk spying by the NSA and will likely spur Congress to act in reigning in the intelligence community, which so far has had little change in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.

Source: US Court of Appeals via Wired | Image: Stock Gavel from Shutterstock

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