Sep 2, 2020 - Technology

Federal court deems NSA phone data collection program illegal

The seal of the National Security Agency.
Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency's surveillance program that collected data from Americans' phone calls was illegal.

What they found: The court concluded that "bulk collection" of phone data violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Wednesday's ruling came seven years after Basaaly Moalin and three other Somali immigrants were found guilty on charges of fundraising for the terror group al-Shabab.

  • The court found that "the so-called telephone metadata program played in a criminal terror-fundraising case against four Somali immigrants was so minor that it did not undermine their convictions," Politico writes.

Background: The metadata collection program was developed after the passage of the Patriot Act following the Sept. 11 attacks. The program was revealed by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden and shut down in 2015.

What they're saying: "Here the NSA collected Moalin’s (and millions of other Americans’) telephony metadata on an ongoing, daily basis for years," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote in her opinion. "Moalin likely had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his telephony metadata — at the very least, it is a close question."

The big picture, via Axios' Kyle Daly: The ruling comes as the Trump administration, through Attorney General Bill Barr, has only pushed for more expansive digital surveillance capabilities.

  • Europe’s high court recently struck down a data pact between the EU and U.S. over concerns that Europeans’ private data can’t be protected from American government surveillance.

Read the ruling:

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