In an opinion issued Thursday, a three-judge panel from the New York-based 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held that a law Congress passed allowing collection of information relevant to terrorism investigations does not authorize the so-called “bulk collection” of phone records on the scale of the NSA program. The judges did not address whether the program violated the Constitution.
Writing for a unanimous panel, Judge Gerard Lynch said allowing the government to gather data in a blanket fashion was not consistent with the statute used to carry out the program: Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
“The interpretation urged by the government would require a drastic expansion of the term ‘relevance,’ not only with respect to § 215, but also as that term is construed for purposes of subpoenas, and of a number of national security-related statutes, to sweep further than those statutes have ever been thought to reach,” Lynch wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Robert Sack and Vernon Broderick.
“The interpretation that the government asks us to adopt defies any limiting principle.