Appeals court takes unprecedented step in ruling against NSA

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) The National Security Agency suffered a huge legal defeat at the hands of federal appeals court.

It’s being described as a landmark, unprecedented decision coming from the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

Thursday, the three judge panel ruled that the collection of billions of Americans’ phone records by the NSA is not legal under the Patriot Act.

And the program exceeds the scope of what congress authorized under the act.

The NSA began gathering phone records as an anti-terrorism tactic after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

The program was leaked by former contractor, Edward Snowden back in June, 2013.

The ruling puts an end to the program just a few weeks before the Patriot Act is set to expire.

A local constitutional expert says even though the court ruled the program is illegal, it still left the door open for a legislative fix.

“The court didn’t go far enough to say it’s unconstitutional or a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which they could have done, but they haven’t. So, there is no real constitutional challenge yet, which could play out in the courts, but at this point congress has the authority to legislate and allow this to happen in the future,” said University of Utah Law Professor, Shima Baradaran.

Utah Senator, Mike Lee is commending the court for this decision and says it’s one more reason to pass the USA Freedom Act, which he is sponsoring.

He says the act would put an end to bulk collection and would require more accountability and transparency for domestic surveillance.

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