Quit listening: Snowden calls court ruling against NSA surveillance ‘encouraging’

NSA operations-center
National Security Operations Center Wikipedia
A federal appeals court has brought a case against the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone surveillance program back from the dead. Back in 2013, U.S. District Judge William Pauley dismissed the ACLU lawsuit on the grounds the NSA program was a “counter-punch” from the U.S. government against terrorists. Now, the second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has ruled that the NSA’s collection of millions of Americans phone records is illegal under federal law, Reuters reports.

Updated on 05-08-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added Edward Snowden’s response to the ruling.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden calls the ruling ‘encouraging’

Just one day after the appeals court ruled that the NSA’s surveillance program is illegal under federal law, the very man who leaked the information to the press — Edward Snowden — applauded the ruling, during an interview at the Nordic Media Festival with Forbes‘ contributor Runa Sandvik.

“This decision will not affect only the phone metadata program,” he said. “It will affect every other mass surveillance program in the U.S. going forward.”

Snowden said that although the ruling hasn’t ended the program completely, it’s an important step forward for the country.

“This being struck down is really a radical sea change in the level of resistance that the United States government has placed thus far,” Snowden said. “So far, courts have said basically, it’s not our place or our role to tell the executive branch of the government how to do their job. It is extraordinarily encouraging to see the court are beginning to change their thinking to say ‘if Congress will not pass reasonable laws, if the executive will not act as a responsible steward of liberty and rights in how they execute the laws, it falls to the courts to say this has gone too far.'”

The ruling declares NSA spying illegal under federal law

The original ACLU lawsuit alleged that the NSA’s surveillance program is unconstitutional on the grounds it violates the American people’s privacy. This time around, the court of appeals did not rule on the constitutionality of the surveillance program, but rather took the easier route of checking the NSA’s actions against the authorities granted to it by Congress using section 215 of the Patriot Act. The court ruled the NSA’s phone surveillance program exceeded Congress’ original intentions, and is therefore illegal.

The court ruled that the NSA’s phone surveillance program exceeded Congress’ original intentions.

In particular, the NSA’s “bulk telephony metadata” collection program, which was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has come under scrutiny from the court. Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch stated in the court’s 97-page decision that the program violated the privacy of Americans and was not authorized by Congress.

“Such expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans,” Lynch wrote.

“Perhaps such a contraction is required by national security needs in the face of the dangers of contemporary domestic and international terrorism,” he added. “But we would expect such a momentous decision to be preceded by substantial debate, and expressed in unmistakable language. There is no evidence of such a debate.”

The court did not tackle the more thorny issue of whether the NSA program violated the Fourth Amendment’s bar against searches conducted without warrants. The second Circuit sent the case back to Pauley for further investigation, and declined to authorize the proposed preliminary injunction to stop the NSA program’s collection of data. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which has been used to justify the NSA’s actions, is set to expire in June, barring any new actions by Congress.

It is unclear what will happen next in this case and others against the NSA, but the court’s decision to revive the lawsuit is a big development in the ongoing situation regarding the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs. We’ll continue to update this post with more information as the case progresses. You can read the full court decision here.

Gaming

Sony to launch State of Play videos for PlayStation 4, PlayStation VR

Sony will debut a new video program named State of Play on March 25. The first episode will focus on new PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR games, and it remains to be seen if Sony will tease the PlayStation 5.
Cars

Tesla revives its referral program with chances to win a Roadster

Tesla has revived its referral program that ended in February because of cost pressures. This time around the perks aren't quite as diverse, though it does offer regular chances to win a Roadster or Model Y.
Home Theater

Here’s how to watch Apple’s March 25 product reveal event live

It's almost here: Apple's much anticipated March 25 event, where it is widely expected to announce several streaming services, including on-demand and live TV with original programming. Here's how to watch it live.
Gaming

Epic Games is offering $100 million to game developers with no catch

Epic Games launched a new grant program called Epic MegaGrants. The program will dish out $100 million in funds to developers working in the 3D graphics community, even if they don't use Unreal Engine.
Mobile

Scientists wreck a smartphone in a blender, but not just for fun

It’s oddly mesmerizing to watch a smartphone get torn apart inside a blender. Researchers recently did just that in a bid to find out which materials make up a handset, and also to encourage people to think more about recycling.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is minutes away: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.
Wearables

This $76,000 Grand Seiko watch has something in common with a plug-in hybrid car

How can a watch that costs $76,000 possibly have anything in a common with any car, let alone a plug-in hybrid? It's all about the complex, technically incredible Spring Drive movement inside this Grand Seiko watch.
Deals

The excellent Apple iPad gets even deeper price cuts on Amazon

The humble iPad from 2018 is still one of the best tablets around -- and a solid choice for most people. Amazon has seen some great price drops for these tablets recently, and now you can own an iPad for even less than before.
Mobile

More than a screenshot: How to record the screen on an Android device

If you've ever want to record video of your Android screen, there are plenty of apps that can help. Here's an easy guide on how to record the screen on an Android device with the right settings and apps.
Apple

Apple March 2019 Event Coverage

Apple’s next event will take place March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California at 10 a.m. PT. We’ve got a handy guide on how to watch, but don’t expect to see any new iPads, iMacs, or AirPods at the show, all of…
Product Review

Want to see how powerful the Snapdragon 855 chip is? Just rev up the Xiaomi Mi 9

How fast do you want to go? If the answer to this is “as fast as possible,” then take a long look at the Xiaomi Mi 9. It’s one of the highest performance smartphones you can buy. It’s a real monster, and we’ve been using it.
Mobile

Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for and start using with your iPhone

Apple is getting into the credit card business. Apple Card is a credit card you can sign up for directly on your iPhone, and it doesn't have fees. There's a lower interest rate and you can even get Daily Cash from all purchases.
Gaming

Apple Arcade might be the new game subscription service worth signing up for

Apple Arcade will launch this fall bringing a new game-subscription service with cross-platform support for iOS, Mac, and Apple TV. At launch, the service will feature more than 100 exclusive games, with more added to the service regularly.
Mobile

Check out 22 of the best iPhone 7 cases and covers for your shiny new phone

The iPhone 7 might be attractive, but it’s not rugged. To keep your device in pristine condition, you really need to think about proper protection. That's why we've rounded up some of the best iPhone 7 cases and covers available.