Antennas of the former NSA listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill or Devil's Mountain in Berlin

Antennas of the former National Security Agency (NSA) listening station are seen at the Teufelsberg hill, or Devil’s Mountain in Berlin, November 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch)

WASHINGTON Fri Jan 3, 2014 9:05pm EST

(Reuters) – The secretive U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Friday renewed the authority of U.S. intelligence agencies to collect data on millions of Americans’ telephone calls in a program that has set off a legal battle over privacy rights.

The court allowed the intelligence community to collect metadata from phone companies, the Office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a news release.

The release offered almost no details about the ruling, but a U.S. official said the authority was renewed for three months, and that it applied to the entire metadata collection program.

In the past, these orders were sometimes issued to individual telephone companies. But the official said the latest order covered all companies from which metadata had been collected under recent previous court authorizations.

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