Privacy Group Wants Supreme Court To Rule On NSA Phone Metadata CollectionBy: Zach Walton - July 8, 2013
Are the NSA’s spy programs unconstitutional? One group hopes to convince the Supreme Court that at least one of them is.
The Hill reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, is planning to file an emergency petition before the Supreme Court regarding the NSA’s collection of phone metadata from wireless carriers. The group argues that the secret FISA court “exceeded its statutory jurisdiction” by allowing the NSA to collect metadata.
If you recall, phone metadata was the subject of the very first leak to come from Edward Snowden and The Guardian. The leaked document showed a court order that gave the NSA permission to scoop up U.S.-based customers’ metadata from Verizon. Many feel that scooping up metadata, which includes phone numbers and duration of calls, in bulk is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
So, the question now is whether or not the Supreme Court will hear EPIC’s argument against the NSA’s phone metadata collection program. It could go either way, but I can see the Supreme Court taking it up. Unfortunately, its ruling might not be as satisfactory as it has proven in the past that it’s fine with the government’s surveillance programs.
In October of last year, the Supreme Court rejected Hepting v. AT&T. It was a class-action lawsuit that sought to remove the immunity provision that allows wireless carriers to share data with the government without fear of being sued if said data is misappropriated. This all took place before the NSA’s spy programs were revealed, but I doubt those revelations would suddenly turn the tables in the peoples’ favor.
There is a major difference between the Hepting and EPIC cases though. EPIC is petitioning the Supreme Court directly as it’s the only court that has any authority over the secret FISA court. in other words, the Supreme Court can’t knock this argument back down to a lower court. It can, of course, just outright reject the petition, but part of me wants to believe that the Supreme Court would at least listen to the argument.
EPIC will file its emergency petition today. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and update should the Supreme Court respond.