A federal judge found that NSA programs for collecting bulk phone "metadata" are legal. Metadata consists of stored information about calls—i.e., what numbers you call, when you called them, for how long, and possibly where you were when you made the calls—but not the contents of actual conversations.
The ruling effectively dismissed a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. “This blunt tool only works because it collects everything,” Judge William Pauley said of the NSA program in his decision.
Judge Pauley's decision conflicts with a separate ruling last week by a federal judge in Washington, who found that the mass collection of phone records may be unconstitutional and described the program as "Orwellian." That conflict sets up a likely showdown before the Supreme Court.