A federal appeals court has reversed a critical ruling pertaining to NSA’s phone surveillance operations.
In 2013, a federal judge had ruled against the National Security Agency’s bulk phone-surveillance program, deeming it “almost Orwellian”. However, an appeals court has overturned the ruling, stating that the security agency’s actions were “constitutional.” The case will now be sent back to the U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon to begin afresh, reported International Business Times.
Judge Leon had earlier ruled that the actions of the NSA were “unlawful” and had granted a preliminary injunction to restrict the collection of raw data. While this was undoubtedly a major victory, the U.S. government had quickly filed an appeal that argued,
“The governmental agency has the right to monitor its citizens, through powers granted by the Patriot Act, the post-Sept. 11 law that considerably broadened the nation’s surveillance capabilities.”
Though this may undoubtedly shock free speech advocates, they can take solace in the fact that the appeals court didn’t dismiss the case, originally filed by conservative activist and lawyer Larry Klayman, who strongly maintains that the NSA program was an unlawful search under the Fourth Amendment. He was referring to the way NSA had kept phone records and metadata of his cell phones.
The Patriot Act has accorded sweeping rights to NSA to initiate and maintain phone records and surveillance on people that the government considers a potential threat to the country. The considerably broadened powers and relative reduction of accountability has been openly questioned by many, who feel the government has accorded a lot of power to the agency and it could be easily misused.
The case has proven quite critical in exposing the extent the U.S. government can spy on its own citizens. People like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange have been openly criticizing the NSA for its multitude of programs that could collect data, despite the safeguards. Majority of such free speech advocates are now running from the U.S. Government for various other charges.
Interestingly, while the verdict has taken the wind out of the fight against NSA’s surveillance, the Congress has been slowly introducing laws aimed at scaling back the collection and scope of the phone program, reported the Wall Street Journal. Though the government appears to have understood that NSA’s programs have a lot of pitfalls, it’s clear it wants them to continue for the sake of national security.
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