Appeals Court Allows NSA to Continue Metadata Collection

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The National Security Agency (NSA) got the green light to continue collecting telephone metadata by an appeals court on Tuesday after a judge ruled earlier in the week that it violates the constitution.

According to a report The Guardian, the D.C. Circuit of the federal appeals court issued a stay on a Monday court order that the NSA stop tracking phone calls because doing so is unconstitutional.

In the Monday ruling, District Court Judge Richard Leon prohibited the NSA from monitoring the metadata from communications by California lawyer J.J. Little and his firm, on constitutional grounds. His firm is co-plaintiffs with Larry Klayman, an activist attorney and founder of Freedom Watch, and Charles and Mary Ann Strange.

The NSA immediately appealed, saying “immediate compliance with the district court’s injunction would require the government to cease all bulk collection and queries of telephony-metadata under the Section 215 program.”

“Particularly where the bulk collection program that plaintiffs challenge will expire in less than three weeks, and Congress has already determined that it is necessary and appropriate to continue that program until the government can put into operation the new targeted system of collection, the equities weigh decisively in favor of a stay,” the NSA and its representatives argued to the appeals court, according to a report by Politico.

As part of the ruling, the NSA must quarantine the data it has related to JJ Little or his law firm, according to The Guardian.

The legislation and the bulk collection program it supports is due to expire on Nov. 29, while the appeals court has scheduled case briefs through Nov. 16. The stay request also mentions the government’s intention to take the case to the Supreme Court if it is dissatisfied with the appeals court’s decision, so it is almost certain that the case will not actually terminate the bulk collection program early at all, regardless of the final ruling.

An appeals court ruled in May that the program was in violation of the Patriot Act, but a separate ruling in August is the latest confirmation that the program is legally protected until its expiration later this month.

Even with changes in procedure and legal framework, the NSA may have an easy time getting the information it wants, given the “highly collaborative” relationship it has with telecom AT&T, revealed in an August report.

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