Thanks to Kent Laugen, attorney here in Red Wing, for notice of this decision:

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, Appeals Court Rules

The good news is that §215 has been amended and amended, and is due to expire on June 1, 2015.

Here’s the actual decision:

Patriot Act_NSA_ca2_20150507

On the first page of narrative, as the court recites the procedural posture, dig this:

The district court held that §215 of the PATRIOT Act impliedly precludes judicial review…

Really?  Getting over this hurdle at the Appellate Court is a huge relief, and this is the part that I’m so glad to see.  This section is from p. 32 – p. 53.  Here’s the bottom line:


There’s also a lengthy section considering, and then rejecting, an analogy of NSA metadata collection with grand jury collection of information by subpoena, and for those interested in workings of a grand jury, this might provide some insight.  The court carefully notes that:

§ 215 does not permit an investigative demand for any information relevant to fighting the war on terror, or anything relevant to whatever the government might want to know.  It permits demands for documents “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

Decision, p. 66.  General broad fishing expeditions are not OK.

The government also tried to argue, unsuccessfully, that the repeated ratification of the PATRIOT Act meant that Congress knew, understood, accepted, and approved of the administrative interpretation, that NSA was authorized to collect this metadata.  That argument fell flat too, with the court noting that there was no discussion of scope, only Congressional inaction regarding interpretation:

Congress cannot reasonably be said to have ratified a program of which many members of Congress — and all members of the public — were not aware.

And the Court goes on:



Because they reached this decision, as above, they sidestepped the Constitutional issues for another day…

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