A new legal opinion from the secret court that oversees the National Security Agency's surveillance program endorsed the government's collection of data on nearly every phone call made to and from the United States.
The July legal opinion, after disclosures about the program by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, extended the government's collection of records for another 90 days, as has been done repeatedly since 2006.
The opinion by U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan, a 2001 appointee of President George W. Bush, was declassified on Tuesday, in part to respond to controversy over the Snowden disclosures.
The Obama administration has declassified other opinions, in addition to those provided by Snowden to news organizations, that describe the program in past years. This is the first declassification of a current order.
Eagan made reference to the recent controversy over surveillance but her ruling says "because there is no cognizable Fourth Amendment interest in a telephone company's metadata that it holds in the course of its business, the court finds that there is no constitutional impediment to the requested" data.
She also ruled that the government's data collection is also lawful under statutes that limit such collection to "authorized investigations."