US court rules NSA can temporarily resume bulk phone data collection

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US court rules NSA can temporarily resume bulk phone data collection
NSA former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is seen via live video link from Russia on a computer screen during a parliamentary hearing on the subject of 'Improving the protection of whistleblowers', on June 23, 2015, at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. Snowden, who has been granted asylum in Russia, is being sought by Washington which has branded him a hacker and a traitor who endangered lives by revealing the extent of the NSA spying program. AFP PHOTO / FREDERICK FLORIN (Photo credit should read FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) prepares to do a live interview with FOX News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. In protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect U.S. citizens' telephone metadata, Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, allowing them to lapse at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Senate will continue to work to restore the lapsed authorities by amending a House version of the bill and getting it to President Obama later this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 01: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) does a live interview with FOX News in the Russell Senate Office Building rotunda on Capitol Hill June 1, 2015 in Washington, DC. In protest of the National Security Agency's sweeping program to collect U.S. citizens' telephone metadata, Paul blocked an extension of some parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, allowing them to lapse at 12:01 a.m. Monday. The Senate will continue to work to restore the lapsed authorities by amending a House version of the bill and getting it to President Obama later this week. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 31: The U.S. Capitol is illuminated at dusk, May 31, 2015 in Washington, DC. The National Security Agency's authority to collect bulk telephone data is set to expire June 1, unless the Senate can come to an agreement to extend the surveillance programs. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 4: Larry Klayman (C), of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch, holds a news conference with Charles Strange (L) and Mary Ann Strange on the steps of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit November 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Stranges, who joined the class action lawsuit, allege that their phones were tapped when they began questioning the circumstances around the death of their son, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2011. The DC Circuit Court held an oral argument over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 4: Larry Klayman (2R), of the political advocacy group Freedom Watch, ends a news conference with Charles Strange (2L) and Mary Ann Strange (C) on the steps of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit November 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Stranges, who joined the class action lawsuit, allege that their phones were tapped when they began questioning the circumstances around the death of their son, a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan in 2011. The DC Circuit Court held an oral argument over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) arrives in front of U.S. District Court to announce the filing of a class action lawsuit against the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey. Paul said he filed the lawsuit to stop NSA surveillance of U.S. phone records because Obama has Òpublicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th amendment.Ó (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 4: (L -R) Freedom Watch representatives Brandon Wheatley, Dina James and Larry Klayman talk outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit November 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. The DC Circuit Court held an oral argument over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records. (Photo by Allison Shelley/Getty Images)
FILE - In this April 7, 2015 file photo, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. holds up his cell phone as he speaks before announcing the start of his presidential campaign, in Louisville, Ky. The Justice Department warned lawmakers that the National Security Agency (NSA) will have to wind down its bulk collection of Americans' phone records by the end of the week if Congress fails to reauthorize the Patriot Act. The Republican divisions over the issue was on stark display in the Senate on Wednesday as Paul, a candidate for president, stood on the floor and spoke at length about his opposition to NSA spying. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, speaks at George Washington University May 11, 2015 in Washington, DC. The George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security held a discussion on the state of cybersecurity threats to the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, and Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., ride back back to their offices following roll call votes on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday night, Nov. 18, 2014. Polar opposites on most issues, Cruz and Franken were in agreement when both voted "yes" on a bill to end the bulk collection of American phone records by the National Security Agency, although the measure failed 58-42. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The House debates and votes for final passage on NSA Surveillance legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act. The measure seeks to codify President Barack Obama's proposal to end the NSA's collection of domestic calling records. It would allow the agency to request certain records held by the telephone companies under a court order in terrorism investigations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio arrives for a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The House debates and votes for final passage on NSA Surveillance legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act. The measure seeks to codify President Barack Obama's proposal to end the NSA's collection of domestic calling records. It would allow the agency to request certain records held by the telephone companies under a court order in terrorism investigations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The House debates and votes for final passage on NSA Surveillance legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act. The measure seeks to codify President Barack Obama's proposal to end the NSA's collection of domestic calling records. It would allow the agency to request certain records held by the telephone companies under a court order in terrorism investigations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 13, 2015. The House debates and votes for final passage on NSA Surveillance legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act. The measure seeks to codify President Barack Obama's proposal to end the NSA's collection of domestic calling records. It would allow the agency to request certain records held by the telephone companies under a court order in terrorism investigations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 11: Admiral Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, speaks at George Washington University May 11, 2015 in Washington, DC. The George Washington University's Center for Cyber and Homeland Security held a discussion on the state of cybersecurity threats to the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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REUTERS -- A U.S. court has ruled that the eavesdropping National Security Agency can temporarily resume its bulk collection of Americans' telephone records, according to documents made public on Tuesday.

The controversial program, exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, was rocked in May by an appeals court ruling that the USA Patriot Act had never authorized the NSA to collect Americans' phone records in bulk.

A new law, called the Freedom Act, which substantially reformed and narrowed the bulk phone data program, was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama a day after the existing program lapsed on June 1.

The Freedom Act also allowed the existing surveillance program to continue for a six-month transition period, but it remained in legal limbo pending Monday's ruling by a judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

"In passing the USA Freedom Act, Congress clearly intended to end bulk data collection ... But what it took away with one hand, it gave back - for a limited time - with another," wrote Michael Mosman, a judge on the surveillance court.

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In his ruling, first reported by the New York Times, Mosman rejected the May ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan that the Patriot Act had never authorized the NSA to collect Americans' phone records in bulk.

"Second Circuit rulings are not binding on the F.I.S.C. and this court respectfully disagrees with that court's analysis, especially in view of the intervening enactment of the U.S.A. Freedom Act," he wrote.

The U.S. Justice Department welcomed the decision.

"We agree with the Court's conclusion that the program is lawful, and that in passing the USA Freedom Act, Congress provided for a 180 day transition period for the government to continue the existing collection program until the new mechanism of obtaining call detail records is implemented," said Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

The NSA program collects and analyzes data about Americans' phone calls, such as the number dialed, and the time and length of the call, but not the calls' actual content.

The Freedom Act requires companies such as Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) and AT&T Inc (T.N), to collect and store telephone records the same way that they do now for billing purposes.

But instead of routinely feeding U.S. intelligence agencies such data, the companies will be required to turn it over only in response to a government request approved by the FISC.

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