This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA spying programs revealed to the world by whistleblower Edward Snowden were actually illegal and unconstitutional.
The ruling was made by Judge Marsha Berzon, who determined that the NSA had no legal authority to collect phone and internet data from innocent people under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
The program was illegal because FISA did not allow for bulk collection, and “required the government to make a showing of relevance to a particular authorized investigation before collecting the records,” Berzon said in her ruling.
“The metadata collection exceeded the scope of Congress’s authorization,” she added.
Not only was the program illegal, but it was essentially worthless as well, and did nothing to prevent terrorism or bring terrorists to justice. Berzon said that there is no evidence that the spying program actually did anything to prevent a single case of terrorism, despite claims from US officials that the programs were absolutely necessary to prevent terror attacks.
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“To the extent the public statements of government officials created a contrary impression, that impression is inconsistent with the contents of the classified record,” she wrote.
On Wednesday, Edward Snowden Tweeted his reaction to the ruling.
Seven 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 and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them.
And yet that day has arrived. https://t.co/FRdG2zUA4U
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) September 2, 2020
The controversial spying program is said to have ended a few years ago, but it is still suspected that the agency spies on the average American regardless.
ACLU senior staff attorney Patrick Toomey called Wednesday’s ruling a victory for privacy rights.
“The decision also recognizes that when the government seeks to prosecute a person, it must give notice of the secret surveillance it used to gather its evidence. This protection is a vital one given the proliferation of novel spying tools the government uses today,” Toomey said.
Activists are hoping that this could be a good development in Snowden’s case, as he is still facing criminal charges under the Espionage Act for revealing the program to the world.