US court re­v­erses de­ci­sion find­ing NSA act illegal


A U.S. ap­peals court on Fri­day ruled in fa­vor of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in a dis­pute over the U.S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency’s bulk col­lec­tion of tele­phone data on hun­dreds of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

The U.S. Court of Ap­peals re­versed a lower court rul­ing that said the pro­gram likely vi­o­lates the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion’s ban on un­rea­son­able searches.

The rul­ing means the gov­ern­ment can con­tinue col­lect­ing the data for the next few months, although the pro­gram is set to ex­pire at the end of Novem­ber un­der leg­is­la­tion that Congress passed to re­place it. The ap­peals court sent the case back for a judge to de­ter­mine what fur­ther de­tails about the pro­gram the gov­ern­ment must pro­vide.

The up­roar over the NSA’s pro­gram be­gan in June 2013 when for­mer NSA con­trac­tor Ed­ward Snow­den leaked de­tails of the sur­veil­lance to the news media. The agency has said it col­lects the phone num­bers of calls made and re­ceived and how long a call lasts, but does not mon­i­tor the con­tents of a call.

Crit­ics of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s sur­veil­lance pro­gram say col­lect­ing mas­sive amounts of data on phone num­bers is a vi­o­la­tion of Amer­i­cans’ pri­vacy rights. In re­sponse, the gov­ern­ment has said it re­views only a tiny frac­tion of the in­for­ma­tion it col­lects.

The NSA stores the in­for­ma­tion in an NSA data­base that an­a­lysts can query for matches against the phone num­bers of known ter­ror­ists abroad, search­ing for do­mes­tic con­nec­tions to plots.

Fri­day’s rul­ing is the latest in a suc­ces­sion of de­ci­sions in fed­eral courts in Washington and New York that at var­i­ous points threat­ened the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the NSA’s sur­veil­lance pro­gram, but have so far up­held the amass- ing of records from U.S. do­mes­tic phone cus­tomers.

The ap­peals court ruled that chal­lengers to the pro­gram have not shown “a sub­stan­tial like­li­hood” that they would win their case on the mer­its.

The law­suit was brought by Larry Klayman, a con­ser­va­tive lawyer, and Charles Strange, the fa­ther of a cryp­tol­o­gist tech­ni­cian who was killed in Afghanistan when his he­li­copter was shot down in 2011. U.S. Dis­trict Judge Richard Leon ruled in 2013 that the col­lec­tion was likely un­con­sti­tu­tional, but he put that de­ci­sion on hold pend­ing a gov­ern­ment ap­peal.

Klayman, an ac­tivist who has filed hun­dreds of law­suits against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, said he is con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal to the Supreme Court. He also said he was con­fi­dent he could prove that the NSA was “into my cell phone records.”

A U. S.

Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman ment.

An ap­peals court in New York ruled in May that the USA Pa­triot Act could not be in­ter­preted to al­low the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of phone sur­veil­lance.

But the Fed­eral In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court, a se­cret ju­di­cial body that over­sees the sur­veil­lance pro­gram, ruled in June that the New York court was wrong. On Fri­day, the se­cret court re­newed its tem­po­rary ex­ten­sion of the pro­gram.

Nei­ther of the de­ci­sions against the gov­ern­ment in­ter­rupted the col­lec­tion of elec­tronic records while the le­gal dis­putes played out.

In June, the U.S. na­tional leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a mea­sure that would phase out the pro­gram over the next six months and re­place it with one that keeps the records with phone com­pa­nies, but al­lows the gov­ern­ment to search them with a war­rant.


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