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NSA’s Mass Surveillance Program Under FISA Ruled Unlawful

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On September 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion that, while affirming the convictions of the defendants raising the appeals, held that the mass surveillance program operated by the National Security Agency (NSA) violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and was potentially unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment. In 2013, Edward Snowden came forward as a whistleblower and revealed the program’s existence.

The NSA’s warrantless mass surveillance program utilized a telephone “dragnet” that “secretly collected millions of Americans’ telephone records.” Law enforcement had been using this dragnet to collect data from Americans, immigrants, and foreigners indiscriminately and without restrictions on content. For years, the NSA and other intelligence officials adamantly denied that they had been collecting Americans’ data.

The Ninth Circuit’s opinion brings Snowden back into the news cycle a few weeks after President Trump floated the idea of pardoning him. Acting as a whistleblower, Snowden leaked evidence of the NSA’s secret program in 2013 and escaped to Russia under threat of prosecution by the DOJ. He is still facing espionage charges if he returns to the United States.

Click here to read about the Court’s opinion regarding the Fourth Amendment challenge to the mass surveillance program.

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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