A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance program that collected data on billions of Americans’ telephone calls was illegal and possibly unconstitutional. The program was exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A Victory for Privacy Rights
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit published its 59-page ruling of the “United States v. Moalin” case on Wednesday, almost seven years since the appeal was filed in November 2013. It involves four Somali immigrants who were convicted on terrorism financing charges.
The case also “raised complex questions regarding the U.S. government’s authority to collect bulk data about its citizens’ activities under the auspices of a foreign intelligence investigation, as well as the rights of criminal defendants when the prosecution uses information derived from foreign intelligence surveillance,” the court document details.
A three-judge panel ruled that the NSA metadata program, which was exposed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 and officially ended in 2015, violated U.S. surveillance laws. Under the program, the NSA collected and analyzed bulk data provided by telecommunications companies. According to Snowden, the agency tracked 5 billion phone records a day. While upholding the convictions of the four Somali defendants, the court document states:
The panel held that the government may have violated the Fourth Amendment when it collected the telephony metadata of millions of Americans.
The court document cites Snowden, who now lives in exile in Russia, six times. “This judge repeatedly cites the Snowden disclosures, showing once again the power of a whistleblower driven by conscience and a press dedicated to the truth,” Freedom of the Press Foundation commented.
Responding to the…