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Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to NSA data collection

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear a challenge to the National Security Agency’s policy of doing mass…

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to hear a challenge to the National Security Agency’s policy of doing mass collection of phone and electronic communications.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed the request with the Court, asking it to overturn an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. EPIC’s request was unusual because the group did not go first to any lower courts to challenge the surveillance court's order, arguing instead that the Supreme Court was the only one eligible to hear the case. The group was specifically challenging an order from the FISA Court that authorized Verizon to release millions of phone records to the government.

Similar actions have been brought in federal courts in New York and San Francisco by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The Reporters Committee headed media coalitions that filed amicus briefs in those cases.

"This case involves a far-reaching FISC order that gives the NSA access to the telephone call records of millions of Americans on an ongoing basis," EPIC argued in its petition to the Court. "Such a broad grant of executive power is not permitted under the FISA and cannot be justified by a non-particularized connection to general national security threats."

The government argued EPIC should have started its lawsuit in a lower court and not gone directly to the Supreme Court with its petition. The Supreme Court, as is typical, did not comment on why it declined to hear EPIC’s case.