Second Circuit Rules NSA Phone Data Collection Program Exceeds The Scope of the Patriot Act. Congress Now Must Decide How Free the Government is to Spy on its Citizens

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the NSA’s phone data collection program – which broadly collects data pertaining to phone calls made by the majority of Americans – exceeds the lawful authority granted to the NSA under the Patriot Act.  Although the Court’s opinion discussed constitutional concerns regarding the NSA’s program, the Court stopped short of ruling the program unconstitutional.

Despite ruling that the NSA was exceeding its authority, the Court declined to enjoin the NSA from continuing its sweeping data collection.  The Court declined to issue the injunction because the provisions of the Patriot Act which authorize the NSA’s data collection program are going to expire on June 1 – just a few weeks away.  Both Congress and the President have expressed a desire to reign in the NSA’s data collection, and just last week the House Judiciary Committee voted 25-2 to amend the Patriot Act in a way that reports say would effectively end the NSA’s ability to collect phone data in bulk.

Two other challenges to the NSA’s data collection programs are currently pending before federal appellate courts.  Depending on how those courts rule, and what Congress does in the coming weeks, the stage may be set for the Supreme Court to draw a line in the sand regarding just how free the government is to spy on its citizens.


Article written by Michael Keenan, associate attorney at Hinman, Howard & Kattell, LLP.  To contact Mr. Keenan directly please call 607-723-5341 or email  

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