NSA Bulk Phone Records Program Ruled Unlawful

Why Patriot Act doesn't permit gathering sensitive information on this scale.

— -- In a blow to the government’s phone-records collection program, a federal appeals court unanimously ruled today that the NSA’s surveillance program is overbroad, and unlawful.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is the statute the government has been relying on to justify the bulk collection of phone records.

“The statutes to which the government points have never been interpreted to authorized anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for the three-judge panel. “The sheer volume of information sought is staggering,” the court said, and includes “every record that exists, and indeed to records that do not yet exist.”

After the NSA collection program was disclosed, President Obama proposed that, in order to insure privacy, an independent third party should hold the phone records.

She also pointed out the Justice Department and the Obama administration are working with Congress to possibly modify and reauthorize the Patriot Act.

The appeals court did not order a halt to the data collection, but deferred to Congress, which is now considering the reauthorization of Section 215 and the Patriot Act.