In a historical legal move, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) is legally allowed to gather the data of hundreds of millions of people’s telephones in the United States.  

 

Earlier this year, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled that the Patriot Act doesn’t allow the NSA to collect phone records. At the time, the appeals court didn’t make a decision on whether or not this data collection violated the Constitution. However, Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch stated that that NSA was not permitted to collect the “staggering” amount of phone records that they held. Despite the lower court’s decision, the NSA is allowed access to American’s telephone data without a warrant.     

 

Protesters gather against NSA

Protesters gather to speak up against the collection of data by NSA (cnn.com)

There has been public outrage over this data collection ever since former CIA employee Edward Snowden made the NSA’s deep surveillance practices public in 2013. This June, Congress approved a restructuring of the surveillance program that would require a warrant for the government to search telephone data. Those against warrantless data searches thought they would see its replacement program six months after the congressional ruling. However, in light of the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision, it is uncertain if the program will see change in the near future.              

 

What’s the problem with giving the NSA access to telephone records if its purpose is to keep people safe? According to American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Alex Abdo, this large-scale surveillance doesn’t actually “make us any safer,” and it is “fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society.” In order to search a person’s private property, such as a vehicle or home, a warrant is needed; since this is the case in the United States, many are left wondering why private data is being treated differently.

 

It’s possible that the program will see restructuring by the end of 2015, but the NSA has free reign to look through American’s telephone data if they choose to, for the time being. While some remain positive that the program will see change, the U.S. Court of Appeals stated that those contesting the program haven’t displayed “a substantial likelihood” that they will win in court.     

 

Should the NSA be allowed to look through American’s telephone data without a warrant? How is this program good or bad? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.