The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Friday filed an appeal to a federal district court ruling [opinion] that held that the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] program of collecting phone call data is likely unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In December Judge Richard Leon granted in part the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, but he stayed his order pending appeal. The DOJ has asked the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] to reconsider the lower court opinion.
The revelations surrounding NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. In September the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released [JURIST report] a previously classified opinion [text, PDF] explaining why a NSA program to keep records of Americans' phone calls is constitutional. Also in September the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI's surveillance powers. In August the Council of Europe [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the UK reaction to the exposure of the US surveillance program. Lawmakers have also called for a criminal investigation into the activities of Edward Snowden, who came forward in early June as the whistleblower in the NSA surveillance scandal [JURIST podcast]. JURIST Guest Columnist Christina Wells argues that the broad provisions of the Espionage Act [text], under which Snowden is charged, raise significant First Amendment concerns [JURIST op-ed].