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U.S. Appeals Court Overturns Decision That NSA Metadata Collection Was Illegal

A three-judge panel for a U.S. appeals court has thrown out a lower-court decision that sought to stop the NSA from continuing to collect metadata on phone calls made by Americans.

The lower court ruling had found that the practice was unconstitutional.

In some ways, this decision is much less important now that Congress has passed a law that changes the way metadata is collected by the government. If you remember, after a fierce battle, both houses of Congress voted in favor of a law that lets phone companies keep that database but still allows the government to query it for specific data.

The three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia still decided to take on the case, because that new program doesn't begin until 180 days after the date that law was enacted (June 2, 2015).

Until then, and as a result of this decision, the NSA is allowed to continue with its metadata collection program.

The court reversed a decision by Judge Richard Leon and sent it back to him for further proceedings.

This court did not make its decision on Constitutional terms; instead, it ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing to receive a preliminary injunction. The court sent the case back to Judge Leon to see if the plaintiffs could cobble up more evidence showing they are being directlytargeted by the bulk collection program.

The complication there is the U.S. government has in the past refused to turn over that evidence, claiming it is secret.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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