The National Security Agency doesn’t think it’s relevant that its dragnet of American telephone data—information on who’s calling who, when, and for how long— was ruled illegal back in May.
An American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit is asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which reached that conclusion, to immediately enjoin the program.
But the U.S. government responded on Monday evening, saying that Congressional passage of the USA Freedom Act trumped the earlier ruling. The Freedom Act ordered an end to the program — but with a six-month wind-down period.
“Contrary to plaintiffs’ insistence, Congress in that legislation did not contemplate an abrupt and immediate end to the Section 215 bulk telephony-metadata program,” the Justice Department argued in its latest brief. “Quite the opposite… That transition period reflects Congress’s and the President’s combined judgment that there should be an orderly transition from the existing program to the new one, during which the government should retain needed tools to protect against the continuing terrorist threat.”