WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 (UPI) — A court of appeals on Friday overturned a lower court’s ruling that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records was illegal.
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the NSA may resume collecting data until the USA Freedom Act goes into effect in November, limiting government surveillance. The act was passed in June and gave the NSA another 180 days to collect bulk data during a transitional period.
Prior to the legislation, in December 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled the collection of certain data — time of phone calls, duration and numbers called — violated the constitutional right to privacy.
In their ruling, the panel of judges said the passage of the USA Freedom Act effectively authorized the NSA “to resume issuing bulk collection orders during [the transitional] period.”
The three-judge panel also said the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate their privacy had been violated under the Fourth Amendment. Judge Janice Brown wrote that the plaintiffs proved the NSA collected personal data, but not their own.
“Although one could reasonably infer from the evidence presented the government collected plaintiffs’ own metadata, one could also conclude the opposite,” Brown wrote. “Having barely fulfilled the requirements for standing at this threshold stage, plaintiffs fall short of meeting the higher burden of proof required for a preliminary injunction.”
The bulk call-data gathering program by the NSA dates back to 2001 and was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013.
The NSA’s collection of American cellphone records was halted on June 1, when Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act expired. The next day, Congress revised the provision with the USA Freedom Act, which allowed the government more limited surveillance powers. About the same time, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled Section 215 of the Patriot Act was unlawful, but did not go as far as issuing an injunction to stop the program.