Appeals court rules NSA surveillance program illegal

In March, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the NSA, claiming their surveillance program was overreaching and illegal. Today, a Federal Court of Appeals has agreed with that assertion, finding the NSA's practice of data collection "exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized". This decision comes well after Edward Snowden began leaking documentation highlighting just how deep and intrusive the NSA's domestic surveillance program is. In the ruling, Circuit Judge Gerald Lynch wrote "such an expansive concept of 'relevance' is unprecedented and unwarranted".

"The sheer volume of information sought is staggering", Lynch continued.

The NSA was shielding itself behind section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the government to collect data and other 'tangibles' related to nation security investigations. In 2013, a Federal Judge ruled the ACLU couldn't actually prove they'd (we'd) been harmed by the NSA's practices.

The appeals court disagrees.

The issue at hand seems to be the mass gathering of info, not the actual practice of surveillance. The NSA says the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FAA) gives them license to tap into the "backbone" of mass information flow (partnering with telcos and search engines).

In their brief, the ACLU pointed out no court approves individual searches, and "the limitations that do exist are weak and riddled with exceptions". Rather than discuss the constitutionality of the NSA's program, the ACLU argued the execution was poor and overreaching.

The appeals court agrees.

Source: ACLU V. Clapper