The US security service NSA’s large-scale eavesdropping program unveiled in 2013 by whistleblower Edward Snowden is illegal. That’s what the federal court of appeal in San Francisco finds. Moreover, the officials who defended the program at the time were not telling the truth, the court says.
Snowden worked for the NSA and revealed seven years ago that the intelligence agency collects and stores Internet and telephone data on a large scale. According to the court, the NSA is violating the U.S. Intelligence Act and possibly the Constitution.
Snowden’s story caused a great deal of outrage. Before that time, the intelligence service denied that information about American citizens was being collected on a large scale. After the revelations, officials defended themselves with the argument that espionage is crucial in combating terror on American soil.
According to the NSA, for example, four inhabitants of San Diego could be convicted of supporting extremist Muslim groups in Somalia thanks to telephone taps. However, the court of appeal states that “this allegation does not correspond with the contents of the secret file in the case”. The four remain imprisoned, because the illegal wiretapping programme does not detract from the evidence against them.
Snowden fled before making his revelations to Hong Kong and then left for Russia, where he remains to this day. In the U.S., he is suspected of leaking state secrets. He has previously said he only wants to return to his homeland if he gets a fair trial.
The former intelligence officer says on Twitter that he did not think he would ever witness a court condemning the NSA’s eavesdropping behaviour.