The Washington Post reports: A federal appeals court ruling that the National Security Agency’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal could undercut more than just that program.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the phone records program violated the law used to authorize it, the USA Patriot Act. The program had been approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, but it was not disclosed publicly until revealed by documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden.
The government argued that the huge volume of phone records were relevant to counterterrorism investigations because searching through them later might help discern links to terrorism suspects. But the court didn’t buy it, ruling that such an interpretation of “relevance” was “unprecedented and unwarranted.” The government’s argument, the judges said, boiled down to “the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations.”
Knocking down that interpretation could have consequences that go beyond the program and even the part of the USA Patriot Act used to authorized it, Section 215. [Continue reading…]