U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the U.S. National Security Agency`s massive collection of phone records of Americans is illegal, saying it exceeds the scope of what Congress authorized.

The court said in a 97-page opinion that the laws used as a basis for the bulk data collection “have never been interpreted to authorize anything approaching the breadth of the sweeping surveillance at issue here,” AFP reports.

“The phone records program ‘exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized,’ Judge Gerard Lynch wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel,” Julian Hattem reports for The Hill. “The court did not examine the constitutionality of the surveillance program.”

MacDailyNews Take: Adhere to the U.S. Constitution.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

Visit the Apple-backed reformgovernmentsurveillance.com today.

Related article:
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple, Google, others call for government surveillance reform – December 9, 2013


  1. Well, bravo to the judges of the second circuit for their keen grasp of the obvious. Not that I expect anyone in the NSA to comply, mind you.


  2. For Americans… Everyone else keep in mind your entire life history, medical records and how often you pick your nose are all fair game.
    No one reporting on this even bothers mentioning that as being significant.

    1. Also keep in mind that ANY communication from the USA to anywhere else on the planet is all fair game. The US Constitution protects US citizens while communicating on US soil. Elsewhere: Nope!

      This is actually a MASSIVE concern on the Internet because nothing stops our communicating with the person next door from being bounced off some server OUTSIDE of the USA. Once that data leaves the USA, despite the destination, it’s also fair game. That’s not going to change! 😯

      1. Despite our government’s pretense to the contrary, the constitution remains the entirety of its legal basis for existing. The constitution is binding upon all officials of the US government, at all times, in all places. When they act in ways prohibited by the constitution, they are acting without legal authority.


      2. Please check your facts. Publicly available government documents (such as USSID 12333) specifically state that US citizens cannot be monitored ANYWHERE in the world without a court order. Their citizenship protects them off US soil, and non-US citizens cannot be monitored while in the US except under very limited circumstances as well. This includes when one end of their communication terminates in the US — the NSA cannot monitor either end.

        Don’t fear the NSA, whose mandate is extraterritorial. Instead, fear DHS and the FBI, whose job it is to handle traffic monitoring within the US, and local police departments who create and maintain things like license-plate databases (I’m looking at YOU, Virginia).

        1. Huh?

          You appear to have gone off base with some of your assertions. There is no inherent surveillance protection for non-US citizens on or off US soil. Zero. Your assertion of US citizens, or not US citizens, not being legally surveilled off US soil is flat out WRONG. All communication off US soil is wide open for surveillance. My point about Internet surveillance simply because you bounced data off a non-US server is entirely THE FACT. YOU should go check your facts. I have no idea where you came up with that idea. It has no basis is law I’ve ever heard of. It sounds like pure fantasy.

          Also, the NSA is SPECIFICALLY dedicated to INTRAterritorial security, that which is vital WITHIN the USA. You’re thinking perhaps of the CIA?

          As for DHS and FBI: Agreed. The FBI has been known to be illegally monitoring everything they can get their hands on across the Internet via several man-in-the-middle node points across the USA. This is blatantly unconstitutional. You can actually dig around for a list of known FBI nodes. (Don’t ask me for it!)

          And yes, MANY police departments share data with one another. This includes sharing data across state lines, which is considered highly controversial at best.

          1. Read the document.


            The purpose of the NSA is for FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE. An example, from section 1.12 (Responsibilities of the National Security Agency):
            (3) Collection of signals intelligence information for national foreign intelligence purposes in accordance with guidance from the Director of Central Intelligence;
            (4) Processing of signals intelligence data for national foreign intelligence purposes in accordance with guidance from the Director of Central Intelligence;
            (5) Dissemination of signals intelligence information for national foreign intelligence purposes to authorized elements of the Government, including the military services, in accordance with guidance from the Director of Central Intelligence;

            The document also describes in great detail just who is considered a US citizen ((i) United States person means a United States citizen, an alien known by the intelligence agency concerned to be a permanent resident alien, an unincorporated association substantially composed of United States citizens or permanent resident aliens, or a corporation incorporated in the United States, except for a corporation directed and controlled by a foreign government or governments.) and how far that protection extends. Go read it. Also read Presidential Policy Directive 28 while you’re at it.

            Also, read some of the info available at nsa.gov, like some of their FAQs. Example:

            Finally, check out USSID 18, a FOIA-redacted version of which is here:

            Click to access 20131119-odni-united_states_signals_intelligence_directive_18_jan_25_2011.pdf

            This defines what the rights of a US citizen are when outside the borders of the US (hint: it’s the same as when within its borders). At the very least, read section 1.1, if the rest of the document is too long for you.

            1. Incorrect how? Just because the truth doesn’t match your worldview? My point, very simply, is that you don’t understand what the NSA is and what it does, and what protections a US citizen is guaranteed by the Constitution, and therefore by extension all your arguments are invalid.

              I’m reminded of that famous line from “A Few Good Men:” “You want the truth? You can’t HANDLE the truth.” When reality collides with your delusion, you’ve got nothing.

            2. Oh shut up with the FUD crap, would you?

              The NSA specifically protects the USA. The end. It does this, in part, by investigating information coming IN and going OUT of the USA. It works DIRECTLY with the DHS. Your very lazy use of language indicated that YOU didn’t know the difference between the CIA and the NSA. It has been as if you’re determined to ignore the CIA, which ACTUALLY does a lot of what you were attempting to describe.

              And I’m going to drop this whatever-it-is debacle as I’m NOT indeed any ‘expert’ on the NSA. I simply know its basic manifesto (which you don’t) and many aspects of what it is supposed to do versus what it does UNCONSTITUTIONALLY, aka illegally. You apparently don’t.

            3. You’re amusing. Ignorant, but amusing. Have you even bothered to read those documents? Which, btw, every NSA employee and contractor is required to prove knowledge of of on a yearly basis, which makes anyone who works there much more of an expert than you.

              Open your mind. Use the resources available to you. You might be surprised.

              BTW – if you REALLY want to read about NSA’s abuse of its power, check out the Church-Pike committee proceedings from the 1970’s.


              You’ll see where a lot of the current checks and balances come from, and why. THAT is scary stuff.

      3. You are right back to worrying about the rights of US citizens again. You barely blinked.
        Is it any wonder the rest of the world looks at you and sees self centered arses. You get upset about surveillance inside your borders – but everyone else, including your allies? Zero rights for them.

        1. Actually, Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD 28) from January of this year extends privacy protection and rights to citizens of any nationality with respect to intelligence surveillance. But honestly, as US citizens, whose rights SHOULD we be caring about first? I think any country would feel the same about its own citizens; certainly Australia and Germany are upset right now because they feel their citizens’ rights have been violated.

        2. It really is, from the US legal POV, ZERO rights for the rest of the human world. #MyStupidGovernment blew off Germany last year by being caught spying on Angela Merkel. US manipulation of other countries by the CIA… and deliberate made-to-order wars and remote murder coward drones are standard. As a citizen in the USA, don’t expect we all sit around ignoring it or condoning it. We have some intensely sick people attempting to run the USA these days, from parasitic companies to outright psychopathic politicians. You don’t have to be paranoid to recognize what goes on here. Thank you Edward Snowden et al. for helping us to see the documentation for this sickness.

    1. All non-US citizens, on or off US soil, are fair game.

      We have a FAR greater problem in the USA of psychopathic murderers killing US citizens people within the USA than we have a problem with terrorists killing US citizens within the USA. Think of all the school shootings over these past many years.

      This ruling would STILL have allowed surveillance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother who planned the Boston Marathon bombing, who was not a US citizen.

      1. “We have a FAR greater problem in the USA of psychopathic murderers killing US citizens people within the USA than we have a problem with terrorists killing US citizens within the USA.”

        And we have a FAR, FAR greater problem than either with the ultra-rich killing US citizens with products they KNOW are dangerous.

      2. Thanks, Derek! I mentioned the likes of this before.

        US citizens will be protected in the US, other are not! Outside the US you may have rights, but no one can stop the BND (Germany) or the AIVD (Netherlands) from spying on you.

        We should ALL be protected wherever we are, wether it is you visiting me in NL or me visiting you in the NY.

        1. That’s what treaties are supposed to be about. Supposedly the US treaties with German stopped these two country’s governments from spying on one another, or so I have heard. Oops.

          Meanwhile, there aren’t any treaties of which I’m aware that prevent US surveillance of communication going out of or into the USA by anyone. It would take some very special trust and treaties for global freedom from surveillance to occur.

          Hmm. If the USA took over the WORLD… 😯

          1. The really sad news is that in an effort to protect us by spying on all we fail to spy succesfully on those who mean true harm to us and prevent the real damage. Today in the news in NL that in order to “counter terrorism” human rights in the NL are being violated on so many levels…..

            1. You too. I’m sorry. – – It occurs to me that in the rush to grab *everything* the surveillance agencies are losing track of the trees for the forest. I strongly suspect the ‘grab it all’ strategy translates into a lazy approach, not simply from its ignoring privacy rights but because it’s easier than tracking individuals and following legal protocols.

              Then there are the politicos who would rather live in ‘1984’, plain and simple.

    2. Tflint, based on your comment I an only assume you are either:

      1. An idiot and a fool
      2. Someone paid by government to troll websites and respond with stupid-ass comments to anything that might be interpreted as against current government policy
      3. A bot that trolls websites and responds to anything that might be interpreted as anti-government

      So, which is it mate?

  3. While this is good news, we shouldn’t celebrate yet because one of three things are likely to happen next:

    1. A higher court overrules Second Circuit
    2. Congress “fixes” the law so the NSA can continue violating our Constitutional rights
    3. The NSA just ignores the ruling and continues doing what it does.

    Sorry to be Mr. Sunshine today, but the NSA is out of control and they are not going to let a little thing like a US Circuit Court ruling slow them down. Hell they ignore the Constitution, why does anyone think they will listen to some judges.

  4. More of same from ArsTechnica:

    Phone metadata spying not authorized by Patriot Act, appeals court says

    The snooping program “exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized.”

    Ars provides the court ruling document here:

    Click to access nsaruling.pdf

    We can hope this is the beginning of the end of an intensely shameful period of US history. But there’s more work ahead to defend the US Constitution and take down the traitorous US mass surveillance bums.

  5. Franklin’s quote is right on. Reagan’s quote was about fighting commies for which Reagan would have given up every bit of privacy of all citizens. Reagan != Franklin. Just the opposite…

    1. Yeah I was thinking the same thing. Does anybody who worships Reagan actually remember his shameful presidency? Do you remember that his vice president, the former head of the CIA, instituted the School of the Americas, where our government trained Central American death squads, hired war criminals like Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz, and started the Project for the New American Century, whose seminal document claimed that the neocons could only take power once there was “another Pearl Harbor,” nicely anticipating the 9/11 attacks? Just sayin’. Reagan was no Franklin.

  6. Further great and relevant quotes:

    “We The People – are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.” – Abraham Lincoln

    “A government by secrecy benefits no one. It injures the people it seeks to serve; it damages its own integrity and operation. It breeds distrust, dampens the fervor of its citizens and mocks their loyalty.” – Russell Long

    “Secrecy is the freedom zealots dream of: no watchman to check the door, no accountant to check the books, no judge to check the law. The secret government has no constitution. The rules it follows are the rules it makes up.” – Bill Moyers

    “Power corrupts, and there is nothing more corrupting than power exercised in secret.” – Daniel Schorr

    “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.” – Patrick Henry

    “The same prudence, which, in private life, would forbid our paying our money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of public moneys.” – Thomas Jefferson

    1. BTW: All of the above quotes are also relevant to the *secret* TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) and TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) ‘treaties’, as well as the ‘Fast Track’ strategy to pass them.

      Welcome to the Corporatocracy.

  7. MEANWHILE, reported at Ars Technica:

    Warrants not required for police to get your cell phone cell-site records
    Mobile callers’ cell-tower history is fair game for cops—probable cause unnecessary.

    (I can’t post the link because I already used up my two on this page).

    A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government does not need a warrant to obtain a suspect’s cell-site location data records.
    The 9-2 decision (PDF) by the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals said that the records of towers that a mobile phone uses to make calls are considered “business records” maintained by a “third party” and are not protected by the Fourth Amendment. That means the government may obtain these records if it believes they are relevant to an investigation.

    IOW: The courts in disagreement and at cross purposes. I suspect this cell phone tower no-warrant surveillance will also be thrown down by a higher court. But these days? I don’t know.

  8. People of the free and civilized world, I’m sure you are wondering if this admission of illegal activity will lead to anything. It will, expect that “we tortured some folks” guy to come out and wave that magic tongue and say something like “but we must look forward” that will dismiss everything with not a slap on the wrist.

    Meanwhile God is at work for the free world, and she may not be blessing America anytime soon but she’s still at America’s side. She has to be, she’s the only one you can trust to escort deliver them to where they are going and we all know where that is.

    And wow is karma going to be such a bitch with this latest NSA activity added on to the totally ethically bereft nation.

    Meanwhile it’s a beautiful day on the free and civilized world, enjoy your loved ones.

  9. We don’t have a government anywhere that understands and/or cares about restrictions placed upon them by the Bill of Rights. Our wise founders placed more restrictions on government than they did on individuals, but at least 90% seem not to understand this – hence, Barack Obama twice elected.

    Not the Federal Government.
    Not any State Government.
    Not any County Government.
    Not any Municipal Government.
    Not any School Board.

    None of them care about the Constitution and specifically the Bill of Rights.

    And most cops don’t understand or know the Constitution, nor even would they care. The 4th Amendment is violated in this country thousands of times on a daily basis.

    Listen up: If you’re ever questioned by a cop, whether at a traffic stop or in an interview regarding a crime, there are only two things you should say:

    I’m exercising my 5th Amendment right. I want my lawyer.

    It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent. That’s irrelevant. Just shut up and ignore their attempts at manipulation. Lots of innocent people have gone to jai because they wanted to “cooperate” or “tell their side.” There’s no rush on “telling your side,” but the first time you do so should always be to your lawyer. There’s nothing at all to be gained from talking to the cops, and everything to be lost.

    And educate your children about their rights. School districts all over have been caught bringing a child into a room with the school principal, a school administrator, and a cop, and questioning them without consent of the parents. This is unconstitutional, but they do it anyway, and end up stringing up OUR CHILDREN.

    The take-over by tyrants is pretty much complete.

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