On May 7th, 2015, the Federal Court of Appeals in New York ruled that the National Security Agency’s collection of American phone records in bulk is illegal Specifically, they ruled that the practice did not fall under the scope of the USA Patriot Act, which allows wiretapping of individuals to detect and prevent terrorism
So, what is the USA Patriot Act? Well, the USA Patriot Act is a 10-letter acronym for the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 It was passed swiftly by congress following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, and signed into law by George W Bush in 2001 Later, when it was set to expire in 2011, Barack Obama renewed the law for another 4 years The Patriot Act has been the subject of intense controversy
Although it was intended to prevent terrorist attacks, it has been accused of infringing on basic American civil liberties It allows ANY law enforcement officials to skirt a US citizen’s fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure The Patriot Act grants agencies like the FBI sweeping surveillance power over cell phone data, internet search histories, medical histories, library records, and “any tangible thing” for suspected terrorists Critics note that because intelligence can be gathered secretly, with little oversight, officials can easily abuse their power and falsely charge innocent people The Patriot Act also allows for the indefinite detention of anyone, even non-US citizens, without probable cause
The New York Court recently ruled against the NSA’s mass phone surveillance program because the judges said it “would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans” Yet, they also made it clear that if they wanted, Congress would absolutely be able to legalize the NSA’s actions by passing new laws to that effect However they would not be able to use the Patriot act, in its current form, to continue justifying the mass surveillance The USA Patriot Act is set to expire in June 2015, and congress is already discussing its renewal Despite massive opposition from numerous public figures, including senators, celebrities, and whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, President Obama has continued his support for the program
He maintains that there is suitable oversight to potential privacy abuses, and the program has had proven results against terrorist violence NSA surveillance will continue to be a greatly divisive issue as the population continues to increase its digital footprint If you’re curious to dive deeper into why the NSA became the closest thing to big brother that the world’s ever seen, check out our video here Don’t forget to subscribe, and thanks as always for watching! We’ll see you tomorrow!