In a huge victory for freedom, privacy, and human rights, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that bulk collection of telephone metadata undertaken by the National Security Agency (NSA) is illegal under federal law.
The scope of the NSA’s draconian mass surveillance was first revealed by former defense contractor Edward Snowden back in June 2013. Ever since leaking confidential information, Snowden has been in exile in Russia for fear of legal action should he return to the US.
Though many were keen to charge the NSA for actions that were unconstitutional, the Court of Appeals approached the bulk data collection from a much simpler angle: the actions of the NSA were found, remarkably, to be beyond the scope of section 215 of the Patriot Act – the legislation designed to legitimise and legalise such privacy violations – as passed by the US Congress after 11th September, 2001.
The case against the NSA was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, and was taken to the Court of Appeals after initially being dismissed by a lower court in 2013. That dismissal has now been overturned, opening the NSA up to a full legal challenge for the methods it used to collect private data from citizens, both in the US and abroad.
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