Court swats down final roadblock to wind down NSA program

Court swats down final roadblock to wind down NSA program

A federal appeals court on Monday denied a long-shot attempt to halt the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did not offer any explanation in its widely expected order, which delays a lower court ruling ordering the program to shut down immediately. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In issuing the order, the court set the NSA on a path to wind the program down in just under two weeks, as Congress ordered with surveillance reform legislation earlier this summer.

The legal battle centered on the NSA’s controversial collection of millions of Americans’ phone metadata. The records include the numbers involved in a phone call, when the call occured and how long it lasted — but not the content of someone’s conversation.

Despite the protests of many defense hawks, Congress this summer passed legislation to end that program on Nov. 29, and replace it with a system in which the government obtains a narrower set of records from private phone companies only after receiving a court order.

Judge Richard Leon, the lower court judge who tried to halt the program before that deadline, last week said that the NSA program “likely violates the Constitution.”

“[T]he loss of constitutional freedoms for even one day is a significant harm,” he ruled at the time.