The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in the US has ruled that the National Security Agency can continue its secret collection of phone records of all American citizens.
The secret court ruling was announced late Friday by the Office of James Clapper who is the Director of National Intelligence.
"DNI Clapper has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the court renewed that authority," Clapper's spokesman Shawn Turner said.
The ruling authorizes the surveillance program for only limited periods of time and the government has to submit new requests for re-authorization every several months.
According to the ruling, the NSA can collect records, including phone numbers, call times and call durations, on all phone calls made in the US.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), who is working on legislation that would ban the NSA from conducting data collection, said “it is clear that transparency alone is not enough".
“There is growing bipartisan consensus that the law itself needs to be changed in order to restrict the ability of the government to collect the phone records of millions of law-abiding Americans,” he noted.
The secret court’s decision comes as several revelations made so far by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show how the US spy agency is conducting various controversial surveillance programs.
Snowden has released documents over the past few months which depict a troubling picture of the super spy agency that has sought and won far-reaching surveillance powers to run complex domestic data collection without anyone having full technical understanding of the efforts.
Court documents have also shown that the NSA violated privacy rules for years with improper surveillance practices.
The spying programs by the NSA began after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks under authority claimed by the executive branch.