The United States Court of Appeals decided on Thursday that it will not order the federal government to cease its bulk spying on millions of phone records collected across the country. During the transition period as the government adjusts to a new policy that will ban the collection of anti-terrorism surveillance data, the government will continue its controversial practice of collecting this data.

NSA Permitted a 180-Day Transition Period

According to New York's 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, it will allow Congress to carry out its 180-day transition plan, so that the adoption of the policy happens in an orderly fashion. The court found the National Security Agency's collection of the data to be illegal and a violation of privacy protections last May.

According to Circuit Court Judge Gerard Lynch, if they were to order an immediate halt of the program, it could disrupt the government's anti-terrorism defense programs. He said that this is why Congress gave 180 days to transition. Lynch said that Congress' decision in this regard was reasonable.

NSA Program Collects Phone Numbers and Phone Call Durations

The NSA program involved the mass collection of information like phone numbers, call durations and other details, but it did not record the contents of the phone calls themselves. The internal espionage scheme was exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, who became privy to the confidential spying program while he worked for the NSA as a contractor.

The three-judge panel's decision on Thursday was prompted by the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a motion for the program to be halted immediately, until a less-sweeping version of the program begins at the end of November. Although the ACLU had this motion denied, a spokesperson for the union said that American citizens should celebrate the fact that their civil rights are being protected and the bulk data collections will soon be coming to an end.