WASHINGTON — The Obama administration moved Friday to ask the secretive U.S. spy court to allow the National Security Agency to continue collecting every American’s telephone records every day, in the midst of dueling decisions in two civilian federal courts about whether the surveillance program is constitutional.
U.S. officials were in the process of requesting an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to renew the NSA phone collection program for 90 more days, said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Such periodic requests are somewhat formulaic but required since the program started in 2006.
The latest request would be the first since two conflicting court decisions about whether the program is lawful and since a presidential advisory panel recommended that the NSA no longer be allowed to collect and store the phone records and search them without obtaining separate court approval for each search.
Also Friday, government lawyers turned to U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to block one federal judge’s decision that threatens the NSA phone records program. The opposing lawyer who spearheaded the effort that led to the ruling said he hopes to take the issue directly to the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department filed a one-page notice of appeal asking the appeals court to overturn U.S. District Judge Richard Leon’s ruling last month that the program was likely unconstitutional. The government’s move had been expected.