A federal appeals court today ruled in favor of the Obama administration in a dispute over the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone data on hundreds of millions of Americans. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court ruling that said the program likely violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. The ruling means the government can continue collecting the data for the next few months, although the program is set to expire at the end of November under legislation that Congress passed earlier this summer to replace it. The appeals court sent the case back for a judge to determine what further details about the program the government must provide.
The ruling is the latest in a succession of decisions in federal courts in Washington and New York that at various points threatened the constitutionality of the NSA's surveillance program, but have so far upheld the amassing of records from US domestic phone customers. The appeals court ruled that challengers to the program have not shown "a substantial likelihood" that they would win their case on the merits. The lawsuit was brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, the father of a cryptologist technician who was killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. (One phone company was recently found to have gone above and beyond the others in helping the NSA with its surveillance efforts.)