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Federal appeals court questions NSA surveillance efforts

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] on Tuesday heard oral arguments about the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] practice of collecting millions of Americans' phone records. The three-judge panel criticized [Reuters report] the spy program, which was revealed more than a year ago. The lawsuit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] challenging the NSA's surveillance program, which gathers metadata of citizens for security purposes. Judge Gerard Lynch stated during the oral arguments that it was hard for him to imagine that Congress envisioned the surveillance actions taken by the NSA upon enacting anti-terrorism powers known as the Patriot Act after the attacks of September 11, 2001. The court will decide the case within the next several months.

Revelations surrounding the US intelligence community have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. In November the Office of the Director of National Intelligence [official website] declassified [JURIST report] intelligence documents regarding data collection under Section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Also in November the Supreme Court denied [JURIST report] the petition for certiorari in a case challenging the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's (FISC) order requiring Verizon to turn over data to the NSA including US telephone calls and Internet exchanges. Last September the FISC released [JURIST report] a previously classified opinion explaining why an NSA program to keep records of Americans' phone calls is constitutional. Also last September the ACLU urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI's surveillance powers.

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