A federal appeals court in New York today determined that the mass collection of metadata from cellphone calls by the National Security Agency was illegal because it “exceeds the scope of what Congress had authorized” under the Patriot Act. The program, originally publicized by Edward Snowden’s leaks in 2013, had been the focus of widespread criticism and several lawsuits. This suit, originally filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, had been dismissed by a lower court. Today’s decision orders the lower court to re-hear the case. Separate appeals challenging the constitutionality of the program are being heard by other courts. Split decisions by any of the courts could result in the issue being taken up by the US Supreme Court in its next session.
What is at issue in the cases is the scope of privacy in an electronic age and the proper balance between security and liberty in a time of ongoing threat.
What do you think? Was the appellate decision the correct one? Is the NSA program collecting cellphone metadata without a warrant be illegal? Or was the lower court decision that the collection of such data under the Patriot Act was a reasonable effort to protect national security correct? What is the proper balance between security and privacy? And who should decide?