Global Freedom of Expression

In re Motion in Opposition to Government’s Request to Resume Bulk Data Collection under Patriot Act Section 215

Closed Mixed Outcome

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    June 29, 2015
  • Outcome
  • Case Number
    Docket No. Misc. 15-01
  • Region & Country
    United States, North America
  • Judicial Body
    Specialized Court/Tribunal
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
  • Tags
    Electronic Search Warrant, Terrorism

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

Pursuant to the USA FREEDOM Act, which amended Title V of FISA, bulk data collection of telephone records by the government was ruled in violation of the Act. However, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found that Congress had specifically carved out a 180-day period in which bulk data collection could continue immediately after the enactment of the USA FREEDOM Act. Therefore, the Court approved the government’s application in this case.


This is before the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on the government’s motion to renew applications to collect bulk telephone data, after the enactment of the USA FREEDOM Act invalidated this type of data collection. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli and Freedomworks, Inc. filed motions to intervene, or in the alternative be granted amici curiae status. The Center for National Security Studies also filed an amicus brief.

Decision Overview

The Court denied the intervenor’s motion to intervene, but granted them amici curiae status. The Court then considered the merits of the case. First, the Court looked at the effect of the USA FREEDOM Act, and found pursuant to other judges within the Court that “the USA FREEDOM Act effectively restored the version of section 501 that had been in effect immediately before the June 1 sunset.” Pg. 9, Para. 1. The Court then considered whether the language of this section permits the government to obtain bulk data collection of call records. The Court found that it did, however, the Court also found that Congress had carved out an interim 180-day period in which these types of data collection procedures could continue. The Court found this from the clear intent of Congress to carve out this 180-period in their enactment of this Act.

Finally, the Court examined the constitutional and statutory arguments raised by the amici parties. The Court found that, as established by previous precedent, the collection of call records falls within the requirements of the fourth amendment, citing numerous cases concluding the same. The Court noted the distinction between this case and the U.S. v. Clapper case but emphasized that Second Circuit rulings are not binding on this Court and the Court respectfully disagreed with the Court’s analysis in that case.

The production of call records, that do not identify the specific content of the calls themselves, does not constitute an illegal search under the Fourth Amendment. In so finding, the Court heavily relied on Smith v. Maryland, the historic case where the government was monitoring the number of ingoing and outgoing calls and their length, date, and time. Since the government was not actually recording the content of the calls the Court found that this did not constitute an illegal search. This is analogous to the case at hand. Therefore, the Court granted the government’s application in so far as it comports with the 180-day time period.

Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Mixed Outcome

This case provides a mixed outcome because although it affirms that the USA FREEDOM Act, in amending title V of FISA, ended collection of bulk telephone data by the government, it also carves out an 180-day period before this should be enacted.

Global Perspective

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Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • U.S., Paul v. Obama, Docket No, 1:14-cv-262 RLJ (D.D.C., filed Mar. 26, 2014).
  • U.S., In re application of the FBI for Orders Requiring the Production of Tangible Things, Docket Nos. BR 15-77, 15-78, Mem. Op. (June 17, 2015)
  • U.S., American Civil Liberties Union v. Clapper, 785 F.3d 787 (2nd Cir. 2015)
  • U.S., Klayman v. Obama, App. Nos. 14-5004, 14-5005, 14-5016, 14-5017 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (Pending)
  • U.S., In Re Sealed Case, 310 F.3d 717 (FISA Ct. Rev. 2002)
  • U.S., Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)
  • U.S., Minnesota v. Carter, 525 U.S. 83 (1998)
  • U.S., United States v. Miller, 451 U.S. 204 (1981)
  • U.S., Steagald v. United States, 451 U.S. 204 (1981)
  • U.S., Bond v. U.S., 120 S.Ct. 1462 (2000)
  • U.S., United States v. Kingston, 801 F.2d 733 (5th Cir 1986)
  • U.S., United States v. Payner, 447 U.S. 727 (1980)
  • U.S., Ferguson v. City of Charleston, 532 U.S. 67 (2001)
  • U.S., U.S. Dep't of Justice v. Reporters Comm. for Freedom of the Press, 498 U.S. 749 (1989)
  • U.S., Stoner v. California, 376 U.S. 483 (1964)
  • U.S., O'Connor v. Ortega, 480 U.S. 709 (1987)
  • U.S., Douglas v. Dobbs, 419 F.3d 1097 (10th Cir. 2005)
  • U.S., United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012)
  • U.S., United States v. Davis, 785 F.3d 498 (11th Cir 2015) (en banc)
  • U.S., In re Application of the United States for Historical Cell Site Data, 724 F.3d 600 (5th Cir. 2013)

Case Significance

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Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

This case did not set a binding or persuasive precedent either within or outside its jurisdiction. The significance of this case is undetermined at this point in time.

The decision was cited in:

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