Federal Court Rules NSA Bulk Data Collection Illegal

On Thursday, a federal appeals court ruled that the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' phone records "exceeds the scope of what Congress has authorized."

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule on the constitutional issue, instead sending it back to the lower court.

A three-judge panel held that the text of the Patriot Act "cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program."

"If Congress chooses to authorize such a far-reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, unambiguously," the court said. "Until such times as it does so, however, we decline to deviate from widely accepted interpretations of well-established legal standards. "

The Patriot Act is set to expire on June 1, so if the Congress wants to widen the scope of the Patriot Act, they certainly can try.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told CNN the White House was reviewing the decision.

"The President has been clear that he believes we should end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it currently exists by creating an alternative mechanism to preserve the program's essential capabilities without the government holding the bulk data," Price said. "We continue to work closely with members of Congress from both parties to do just that, and we have been encouraged by good progress on bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would implement these important reforms."