Back in December of 2013, critics of massive government surveillance appeared to have won a victory in challenging the system in a case called Klayman v. Obama. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia stated that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of metadata from telephones, a clandestine program exposed by Edward Snowden, was probably a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The case was brought forward by Larry Klayman, founder of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch, and Charles and Mary Strange, the parents of a Navy SEAL and NSA cryptologist who died in Afghanistan.
However, at the end of August, an appeals court in the D.C. Circuit decided that the plaintiffs did not have adequate evidence that their data had been collected and never should have been allowed to pursue the case. Essentially, that court didn’t state that the NSA program was legal, but it suggested this case shouldn’t challenge the program’s legality.
The program in question, created under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, was reformed by congressional passage of the USA Freedom Act in June of this year. That law goes into effect in November. The Freedom Act restricts the federal government from indiscriminately collecting metadata in bulk; instead, the government has to request, from phone companies, certain data related to specific terms of interest. (We just have to hope the terms aren’t “hey” or “see you then” or the letter “A.”) The data will still be collected in bulk, but the phone companies, instead of the government, will be performing that function.