US appeals court: NSA phone record collection is excessive

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NEW YORK — A federal appeals court in New York has ruled that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records by the government exceeds what Congress has allowed.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan issued its decision Thursday.

In it, a three-judge panel said the case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union illustrated the complexity of balancing privacy interests with the nation’s security.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said in a statement, “Courts always do better when they hear both sides, as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did here in striking down the FISA Court’s illegal practice. This ruling should empower and embolden reform.”

A lower court judge had thrown out the case. The appeals court said the lower court had erred in ruling that the phone records collection program was legal.

However, the 2nd Circuit declined to block the program, saying it is now up to Congress to decide whether and under what conditions it should continue.

It said a debate in Congress could profoundly alter the legal landscape.