The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the NSA’s bulk, warrantless, collection of telephone metadata and records is illegal and that it exceeds the scope of the Patriot Act.
Writing on behalf of the three judge panel, Judge Gerard E. Lynch said “we find that the program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.”
The court did not address if the program violates the constitution, merely that the NSA program is illegal because it exceeds the scope of what is allowable under the Patriot Act.
The section of the Patriot Act under which the government was operating the NSA program, Section 215, is set to expire in June. The Appeals Court wants to wait on making any further ruling on the case until the future of Section 215 is decided by Congress.
“In light of the asserted national security interests at stake, we deem it prudent to pause to allow an opportunity for debate in Congress that may (or may not) profoundly alter the legal landscape,” said Lynch.
While the President has not ended the NSA surveillance program, he has said that he hoped Congress might pass legislation to do so instead.
Republican Presidential hopeful Rand Paul (R. KY) tweeted the following in response to the court’s decision on Thursday.
The phone records of law abiding citizens are none of the NSA’s business! Pleased with the ruling this morning. pic.twitter.com/y4FBePt6h6
— Dr. Rand Paul (@RandPaul) May 7, 2015
It is uncertain what this ruling means for Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked the details of the program to the public, believing that it was illegal from the very start. Edward Snowden is currently living in Russia and faces prosecution if he returns to the United States.[CNN][Reuters]