San Francisco - A federal appeals court today ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of phone records is illegal, saying Congress didn't authorize collection of a ''staggering'' amount of information on Americans. The decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S.Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit overturns a judge's ruling dismissing ACLU's challenge to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, ACLU v. Clapper.
''This is a great and welcome decision and ought to make Congress pause to consider whether the small changes contained in the USA Freedom Act are enough,'' said Cindy Cohn, executive director of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). ''The 2nd Circuit rejected on multiple grounds the government's radical reinterpretation of Section 215 that underpinned its secret shift to mass seizure and search of Americans' telephone records. While the court did not reach the constitutional issues, it certainly noted the serious problems with blindly embracing the third-party doctrine—the claim that you lose all constitutional privacy protections whenever a third-party, like your phone company, has sensitive information about your actions."
"Now that a court of appeal has rejected the government's arguments supporting its secret shift to mass surveillance, we look forward to other courts—including the Ninth Circuit in EFF's Smith v. Obama case—rejecting mass surveillance as well," said EFF Legislative Analyst Mark Jaycox. "With the deadline to reauthorize section 215 looming, we also call on Congress to both expressly adopt the interpretation of the law given by the court and to take further steps to rein in the NSA and reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."