In a win for opponents of the National Security Agency’s massive telephone metadata collection efforts, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday the program is not authorized by the Patriot Act. The three-judge panel did not, however, go so far as to declare it unconstitutional. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “The NSA has used the Patriot Act to justify collecting records of nearly every call made in the U.S. and entering them into a database to search for possible contacts among terrorism suspects.” It’s an attempt to collect all the hay, make a stack and then look for needles. But the judges didn’t order a stop to the collection because Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the NSA specifically cited for its authority, is due to expire on June 1 and is currently under debate in Congress. The House Judiciary Committee has already passed a bill ending the bulk collection in favor of requiring case-by-case consideration.
As we wrote two years ago, the issue with bulk collection is one of trust. Obama’s tenure in the White House has been plagued with scandals — political targeting at the IRS and the EPA, wiretapping of news outlets, the Benghazi cover-up, VA wait lists and Fast and Furious — all of which makes this data collection for a war he doesn’t even want to fight unsettling.
Update: Rand Paul’s reaction: “This is a monumental decision for all lovers of liberty. I commend the federal courts for upholding our Constitution and protecting our Fourth Amendment rights. While this is a step in the right direction, it is now up to the Supreme Court to strike down the NSA’s illegal spying program. It is the duty of elected officials to protect the rights of all Americans, and Congress should immediately repeal the Patriot Act provisions and pass my Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act. I will continue to fight to prevent the Washington Machine from illegally seizing any American’s personal communication.”
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