[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the Patriot Act [text, PDF] does not authorize the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] to collect millions of Americans' phone records. The court found that section 215 of the act did not preclude judicial review and remanded the case for further consideration to determine if NSA's actions were constitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] had alleged in the complaint [JURIST report] filed last June that the program violates the rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the First and Fourth Amendments.
Although the president and top officials have defended the surveillance as a lawful counter-terrorism measure, several US lawmakers have called [JURIST report] for a review of the government's surveillance activity in light of reports revealing phone and Internet monitoring.The focus on government surveillance policies comes largely as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive], who allegedly leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. Several human rights groups have taken legal action challenging the NSA. In March rights groups filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] in federal court against the NSA alleging that one of the NSA's mass surveillance programs violates privacy rights and threatens free communication. The plaintiffs include the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Wikimedia.