Via The Hill:
A federal court has decided that the National Security Agency’s bulk, warrantless collection of millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal.
The sweeping decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday represents a major court victory for opponents of the NSA and comes just as Congress begins a fight over whether to renew the underlying law used to justify the program.
That program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel.
The law “cannot be interpreted in a way that defies any meaningful limit,” he added.Additionally, the government’s rationale behind the program represents “a monumental shift in our approach to combating terrorism,” which was not grounded in a clear explanation of the law.
The Second Circuit’s decision provides the most significant legal blow to the NSA operations to date and comes more than a year after a lower court called the program “almost-Orwellian” and likely unconstitutional. The appeals court did not examine the constitutionality of the surveillance program in its ruling on Thursday.
The Second Circuit is just one of the three appeals courts examining challenges to the NSA’s phone records program, which may ultimately land at the Supreme Court.