The gavel has come down. A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that the NSA’s telephone date collection program exceeds the scope of the law as defined by the Patriot Act.
The federal government previously argued that it’s power to collect American’s phone records is legal under a provision of the Patriot Act. Republican Senator Rand Paul (R – KY) has been an out spoken critic of the program(s) and has led the charge in congress to allow said provisions to expire.
The program(s) were first revealed publicly by NSA contractor Edward Snowden in a series of leaks to the press. Snowden, who currently resides in Russia, has been charged with a number of federal crimes and is seeking political asylum in the country.
The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals, spoken for by Judge Gerard E. Lynch, said that the program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized”. He added that the text of the Patriot Act “cannot bear the weight the government ask us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.
The Court did not address the larger, more pressing question as to whether the program is constitutional. However, it did note that the section of the Patriot Act proposed to have authorized he collection is set to expire in June.
Senator. Marco Rubio (R-FL) defended the NSA program on the senate floor, after the decision was made public.
“A perception has been created, including by political figures who serve in this chamber, that the United States government is listening to your phone calls or going through your bills as a matter of course,” said Rubio. “That is absolutely and categorically false.”
Meanwhile, the House is moving to approve the USA Freedom Act, which aims to kill the NSA’s collection of phone data as well as to reform the petition process used by government agencies to request the information from the secretive FISA court.
The bill faces troublesome opposition from Senate Majority Lead Mitch McConnell and his cronies, who proposed a bill aiming to reauthorize the Patriot Act. His allies include Senators Lindsey Graham, Rubio, and Tom Cotton.
Fortunately for freedom loving individuals, the court ruling may now complicate McConnell’s authoritative plan to continue the data collection.