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US appeals court declares NSA spying illegal

Despite British MP’s quickly jumping on the idea of increasing the amount of spying that agencies like GCHQ perform against the British public, across the pond things don’t look quite so rosy for the intelligence agencies. The NSA’s record of spying on US citizens has been deemed illegal by a federal appeals court, paving the way for legal action against the state and its federal agencies, and potentially even leading to a cessation of all related schemes.

While government and agency officials argued that the Patriot act, which allows for data seizure and collection to help fight terrorism, covered its spying programs, the appeals court did not agree. While it could be used to target individuals it said, the act did not give the NSA or anyone else the right to collect mass phone records on the US populace.

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

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He then put the continuation of such programs in the hands of congress, overruling a 2013 decision that declared the NSA programs lawful. However, he did stop short of saying that the NSA had violated the terms of the US constitution.

What happens next will certainly be interesting, though according to Reuters, we may see a big revamp of the NSA’s spying systems, as even President Obama has shown interest in ending much of what they do while preserving its “essential capabilities.”

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KitGuru says: This is pretty excellent news for anyone that’s a fan of personal privacy, but it’s only the first step to having the programs stopped in their tracks. Hopefully rulings like this will make British MPs think twice about further extending snooping laws.

Image source: Wikimedia

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