Thursday, May 7, 2015

NSA's bulk collection of phone records is illegal, U.S. appeals court rules

US appeals court rules NSA's bulk collection of phone records is illegal, asks Congress to act - News1130 - Larry Neumeister & Ken Dilanian, Associated Press:

May 7, 2015 - "The unprecedented and unwarranted bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the government is illegal because it wasn’t authorized by Congress, a federal appeals court said Thursday as it asked legislators to decide how to balance national security and privacy interests.

"The National Security Agency’s collection and storage of U.S. landline calling records — times, dates and numbers but not content of the calls — was the most controversial program among many disclosed in 2013 by former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden. Some NSA officials opposed the program, and independent evaluations have found it of limited value as a counterterrorism tool. Snowden remains exiled in Russia.

"On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan permitted the NSA to continue temporarily as it exists, but all but pleaded for Congress to better define where boundaries exist....

"'The statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,' the court said. 'The sheer volume of information sought is staggering.'

"A lower court judge in December tossed out an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, saying the program was a necessary extension to security measures taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The appeals court said the lower court had erred....

"Opponents of the program say the information can enable the government to learn, for instance, whether someone has called a domestic violence, rape or suicide hotline or whether someone has reported a crime. They say it can also reveal civil, political or religious affiliations, an individual’s social status and whether the person is involved in an intimate relationship.

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