For such an infamous spy program cloaked in a massive shroud of lies and official ambiguity, it’s potential undoing at the hands of our legal system is pretty clear. “A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end the controversial anti-terrorism surveillance,” Reuters reported on May 7. “Ruling on a program revealed by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.”
I’d love to say that that’s it for the NSA’s practice of scooping up all our phone records, but our beloved Congress still has a say–in fact, they’ll have a chance to do something on the NSA real quick, because the section of the Patriot Act used to justify the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records expires this June.
For local Congressmember Tulsi Gabbard, D–2nd District, the court ruling is wonderful news.
“The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals stood up for protecting our civil liberties, ruling unanimously today that the collection of innocent Americans phone records by the NSA is illegal,” said Gabbard in a news release sent out by her office on the day of the ruling. “The American people deserve to have confidence that the government will balance its’ responsibilities of protecting our civil liberties and privacy, and keeping the American people safe. I have authored and cosponsored several measures to overhaul U.S. surveillance law and next week, the House of Representatives is expected to take up the USA Freedom Act, which looks to take further steps toward real reform that protects our civil liberties and increases transparency.”
According to the Reuters story cited above, the “USA Freedom Act” (because the only way to get rid of one ridiculous euphemistically named law is to replace it with another one, right?) which would end the NSA’s bulk collection of phone calls, recently passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 25-2. It’s expected to pass the House, but it’s not known how it will fare in the Senate. If it passes there, President Barack Obama has apparently said he’d sign it.
Photo of NSA headquarters: Wikimedia Commons