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US Court: NSA Can Resume Bulk Data Collection

FILE - The National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Maryland.

A U.S. court has ruled that the National Security Agency can temporarily resume its bulk collection of Americans' telephone records.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Monday ruled that the NSA could resume gathering millions of Americans’ phone metadata — call times, dates and durations — to scan for links to foreign terrorists.

The program was suspended after an appeals court in May ruled that the U.S. Patriot Act had never authorized the NSA to collect such data.

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

The ruling late Monday allows the program to resume for 180 days, in compliance with the new law. The six month period was designed to give the NSA time to set up an alternative system in which the data is stored by the phone companies.

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.