Privacy SOS

Federal court finds dragnet surveillance program violates the law

A three judge panel of the second circuit court of appeals has ruled that the NSA/FBI dragnet metadata surveillance program violates the law. While the court punted on a constitutional finding, it ruled that the spying exceeds the authority granted by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is scheduled to expire on June 1.

Read the decision, and Judge Sack's concurrence, in which he compares Edward Snowden to Dan Ellsberg, writing that "Secretive bureaucratic agencies, like hermetically sealed houses, often benefit from a breath of fresh air."

The benefit of Snowden's leaks has perhaps never been more clear. Without his disclosure of a FISC order to Verizon, which demanded that the company turn over all of its customers' phone records, this court challenge may not have gotten past the standing hurdle. But despite the importance of this ruling, it won't immediately change the surveillance programs. That's because the court acknowledged what's about to happen in the other non-executive branch of government, and passed the baton.

Now the battle turns to congress, where a major fight is gearing up over whether to reauthorize the provision of the USA Patriot Act that this court held does not authorize the dragnet spying our government has nonetheless conducted for over a decade in its name.

Take action now to tell congress to let Section 215 die, and with it, one of the government's most pernicious surveillance authorizations.

© 2018 ACLU of Massachusetts.