A US Federal Appeals Court has ruled that the controversial National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance program, exposed in 2013, was illegal.
The NSA (US National Security Agency) has argued its mass surveillance program stopped terrorist attacks, however a new US court ruling found that this has not accurate & may have even been unconstitutional.
This is 7 years after former NSA contractor & whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, outlined the mass surveillance program, which allowed spying-in on millions of American’s phone calls, in a blockbuster revelation that drew widespread concerns surrounding privacy.
Snowden – PSBE Conferences
Edward Snowden has twice enthralled our Cybernews Group (PSBE) conference audiences in London & Manchester with detailed accounts of his activities & history by video-link from his Moscow apartment.
“7 years ago, as the news declared I was being charged as a criminal for speaking the truth, I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful, & in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” Snowden said on Twitter, recently.
After the 2013 Snowden exposure of the NSA’s phone-record collection program, many argued for the program, saying it had successfully stopped terrorist attacks.
US Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the US House Intelligence Committee, commented that the NSA surveillance program had prevented over 50 terrorist attacks
The NSA repeated claims that the program had helped foil terrorist attacks, referring to a particular case against Basaaly Moalin, a Somali immigrant who was convicted of conspiring to support terrorist group ‘Al-Shabaab’.
However, in an appeals case for Moalin (as well as 3 other Somali immigrants who supported terrorist organisations), the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled that the illegally collected phone records actually did not play a major role in the case.
The court ruled that the collection of Americans’ phone records was actually illegal, & may have also violated the 4th Amendment, which gives Americans security against unreasonable searches & seizures.
“The panel affirmed the convictions of 4 members of the Somali diaspora for sending, or conspiring to send, $10,900 to Somalia to support a foreign terrorist organisation, in an appeal that raised complex questions regarding the US Govt’s authority to collect bulk data about its citizens’ activities under the auspices of a foreign intelligence investigation, as well as the rights of criminal defendants when the prosecution uses information derived from foreign intelligence surveillance,” says court documents.
Privacy advocates, e.g. the ACLU, praised the ruling. “This ruling, which confirms what we have always known, is a victory for our privacy rights,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Twitter.
Alex Abdo, Litigation Director with Knight First Amendment Institute, noted on Twitter that the court held that the govt. must provide notice to criminal defendants prosecuted with evidence that’s derived from NSA surveillance, in “perhaps the court’s most unprecedented & therefore significant move.”
“The work to rein in overreaching NSA surveillance is far from over, but it’s worth pausing to consider that nearly all the progress we’ve made has come because of disclosures criminalised by a law, the Espionage Act, that makes no exception for disclosures in the public interest,” he explained.
Snowden still faces of US espionage charges.
30 Years in Jail
In 2013, after Snowden leaked 1,000s of classified documents, about top-secret surveillance programs to journalists that focused on US spying efforts, the US Department of Justice charged him for violating the ‘Espionage Act’ & for stealing government property, for which he faces at least 30 years in jail.
The US has also sued Snowden over his new memoir, alleging he published the book in violation of non-disclosure agreements signed with both the CIA & NSA.