A federal appeals court has denied a request to immediately halt the National Security Agency’s collection of data on Americans’ phone calls, ruling that Congress intended it to be allowed through November.

In an opinion issued Thursday, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York denied a motion by the American Civil Liberties Union to shutter the program now.

The court noted that Congress in June outlawed the bulk collection of phone data but allowed for a transition period to phase out the program by Nov. 28.

The judges said, “We agree with the government that we ought not meddle with Congress’ considered decision regarding the transition away” from the bulk data collection.

The appeals court in late May ruled that the NSA program violated Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act – the law that the government claimed authorized the data-gathering.

In early June, Congress passed the USA Freedom Act, which barred such collection. But the lawmakers, the judges found, called for a 180-day period to allow for “an orderly transition” from the existing program to a new, more targeted collection program. Their intent was “clear,” the judges wrote.

“Allowing the program to remain in place for the short period that remains at issue is the prudent course,” the judges said in the case, ACLU v. Clapper. “An abrupt end to the program would be contrary to the public interest in effective surveillance of terrorist threats.”

The ACLU has also asked the court to determine to what extent the NSA must purge the records it has previously collected. In an effort to detect terrorist threats, the NSA has been gathering “metadata” – or numbers dialed and call lengths and times, but not content – on billions of phone calls made to or from people in the United States.


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