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A Federal Court Sided with the NSA Today

The judges overturned a decision that found bulk phone data collection unconstitutional.

by Kari Paul
Aug 28 2015, 8:00pm

A federal appeals court reversed a ruling against the National Security Agency's phone data collection program on Friday, officially undoing a 2013 decision that found the surveillance program unconstitutional.

The DC Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the NSA in a vote of 2-1, overturning the lower court's decision to grant an injunction, which was previously stayed by the district court pending this decision.

This is all pretty dense, and to make it worse, the practical effect of a reversal is unclear given that the Senate already let three provisions of the Patriot Act, including Section 215, that allow the NSA to collect phone and other records expire in June this year. However, the organization is continuing to do collect records as the Obama administration transitions the collection program to phone companies before November under the newly-passed USA Freedom Act.

Friday's appeal court decision stems from a case brought by conservative activist Larry Klayman against the government after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the scope of the government organization's bulk phone record collection program in 2013.

Klayman claimed the collection violated his Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure. The judges said he would have to show substantial likelihood that his data specifically was collected by the NSA for that to be the case.

"The record, as it stands in the very early stages of this litigation, leaves some doubt about whether plaintiffs' own metadata was ever collected," the decision reads.

The ACLU has filed a challenge to the USA Freedom Act that allows the NSA to continue collecting phone data into November. Meanwhile, the Klayman case will now go back to the district court, for further proceedings..