In ACLU et al. v. Clapper et al., No. 14-42-CV, — F.3d —-, 2015 WL 2097814, (2d Cir. May 7, 2015), the Second Circuit reversed a lower court’s ruling that the NSA’s bulk collection of phone data can be lawfully conducted under the USA Patriot Act. The district court had dismissed the ACLU’s complaint, holding that the program was authorized under the Patriot Act. The Second Circuit vacated that ruling and remanded the matter back to the District Court.
In remanding the matter back to the district court, the Court held “the district court erred in ruling that § 215 [of the USA Patriot Act] authorizes the telephone metadata collection program, and instead hold that the telephone metadata program exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized and therefore violates § 215.” Id. at *33. The Court found that “[s]uch expansive development of government repositories of formerly private records would be an unprecedented contraction of the privacy expectations of all Americans.” Id. at *25. Because the Court decided the issue on statutory grounds, it declined to determine the constitutionality of the program. Id. at *1, *31. Although the Second Circuit vacated the lower court judgment, it fell short of stopping the program and affirmed the District Court’s denial of a request for a preliminary injunction, given that parts of Section 215 were set to expire on June 1, 2015. Id. at *32.