BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A federal judge rules in favor of a program allowing the NSA to collect the phone records of millions of Americans. This, after another judge found the practice unconstitutional.

It’s a conflict that could ultimately go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Meghan McCorkell has more on the controversy.

In a 54-page decision released Friday, a federal judge in New York calls the NSA program a counter-punch to terrorism.

It’s a program the president has defended.

“America is not interested in spying on ordinary people,” he said.

Now a federal judge is backing that claim.

Throwing out a challenge from the ACLU, Judge William Pauley says the NSA’s practice of collecting millions of Americans’ phone records is constitutional, saying the program “…significantly increases the NSA’s capability to detect the faintest patterns left behind by individuals affiliated with foreign  terrorist organizations.”

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The ruling comes 11 days after another judge granted a preliminary injunction against the program, saying it’s “likely unconstitutional” and “almost Orwellian.”

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed the secret spying program.

“We have censors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person,” said Snowden in a Christmas address on British television.

An advisory task force has recommended President Obama make big changes at the NSA, including requiring court approval before accessing phone and Internet data–a move critics want to see.

“NSA, you’ve gone too far. The bulk collection of Americans’ data by the U.S. government has to end,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, (D) Vermont.

A program protecting Americans, or a violation of privacy? It’s a question that could ultimately be answered by the country’s highest court.

ACLU officials say they are extremely disappointed with Friday’s decision and plan to appeal.

At least three other lawsuits targeting the secret spying program are pending in other courts.

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