NSA Spying News: Federal Court To Rule For First Time On NSA Surveillance Program In ACLU Lawsuit

By Barry Eitel , Updated Sep 02, 2014 06:06 PM EDT

A panel of federal judges will hear testimony this week on whether or not the National Security Agency's mass surveillance program is Constitutional. The hearing started as a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union last summer, mere days after whistleblower Edward Snowden shocked the public with thousands of documents detailing an expansive plan to monitor the phone metadata of millions of American citizens--citizens not accused or charged with any crime.

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In the suit, the ACLU says the NSA's actions are "akin to snatching every American's address book--with annotations detailing whom we spoke to, when we talked, for how long, and from where."

The Department of Justice believes that Americans have no right to privacy regarding phone metadata (such as the duration of phone call-not the actual contents of the call) because wireless companies already collect this data.

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"The telephony-metadata program serves the paramount government interest in preventing and disrupting terrorist attacks on the United States, and does so with minimal impact on legitimate privacy concerns," the DOJ claimed back in April in a brief signed by Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and Stuart Delery, the head of the Justice Department's Civil Division.

The appeals court will be the first to rule on the NSA's program since Americans learned of it last summer, although Congress has attempted to declaw the controversial agency.

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