Surveillance

Appeals Court Takes on Legalities of NSA Snooping

Obama administration grilled on mass collection of phone records

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A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday grilled an Obama administration lawyer about the legality of the continuing collection of millions of Americans' phone records, adding fuel to a debate that has raged since the spy program was revealed more than a year ago.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York was the first appellate court to hear arguments on whether the National Security Agency (NSA) program is lawful, in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenging the gathering of so-called metadata.

Judge Gerard Lynch, one of three judges who heard the arguments, said it was "hard for me to imagine" Congress had envisioned such a sweeping effort when it passed an expansion of anti-terrorism powers known as the Patriot Act after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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