(The AEGIS Alliance) – Seven years ago the former National Security Agency contractor named Edward Snowden blew the whistle about a massive surveillance system that monitors the phone records of Americans. An appeals court in the U.S. has come to the conclusion that this program is unlawful. The court also ruled that U.S. intelligence leaders who publicly defended the program weren’t telling the truth.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down a ruling on Wednesday and said the warrantless telephone monitoring system that collected the telephone records of millions of Americans was in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and that it was unconstitutional.
Snowden had fled to Russia as a result of the disclosures in 2013 and is still facing U.S. espionage charges. Snowden wrote on Twitter that the ruling vindicated his decision to go public with evidence of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying operation.
“I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them,” Snowden tweeted.
NSA was building a vast database of U.S. telephone records in secret according to the evidence. The who, how, when and where of millions of mobile calls had been the first and perhaps the most explosive revelations made by Snowden that the Guardian published in 2013.
Up until that point, top intelligence officials insisted on the public that the NSA was unaware it was gathering information on Americans at all. After the program was exposed, U.S. officials started to argue that the eavesdropping played a crucial role in fighting domestic extremism. Officials cited the particular case of four residents in San Diego who were facing accusations of giving aid to religious fanatics in Somalia.
U.S. officials insisted that the four people, Issa Doreh Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Mohamed Mohamud, and Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud had been convicted in 2013 as a result of the NSA spying on telephone records, but in a ruling by the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday, said such claims were “inconsistent with the contents of the classified record.”
The ruling won’t affect the convictions of Moalin and the other defendants; the court ruled that the illegal surveillance didn’t contaminate the evidence from their trial. Watchdog groups which include the American Civil Liberties Union, that assisted in bringing the case to appeal, welcomed the verdict from the judges on the NSA’s surveillance program.
The ACLU gave a statement and said “Today’s ruling is a victory for our privacy rights,” and said it “makes plain that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records violated the Constitution.”
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.