Supreme Court rejects plea to look at NSA program

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The Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency, rejecting a call from a privacy group to stop NSA from collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers in the United States.

The complaint, from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, was the first against the NSA to reach the Supreme Court since former government contractor Edward Snowden began leaking information about the NSA's sweeping surveillance programs.

While the justices on Monday declined to get involved in this issue, other lawsuits on the topic are making their way through the lower courts around the country.

But in the case at hand, EPIC bypassed lower courts and said that only the Supreme Court can overrule a decision by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose order allowing NSA to get the records cannot be reviewed by other federal courts.

The FISA Amendments Act, which serves as part of the legal basis for NSA surveillance activities, was challenged in the Supreme Court last year in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA. In that case, plaintiffs including lawyers and journalists sued, arguing their communications with foreign contacts were targeted by the U.S. government. In its ruling this year, the court essentially punted on the case, arguing the plaintiffs had no standing (in other words, that the plaintiffs had no proof that they were either the targets of surveillance or would be in the future).

The case is In Re Electronic Privacy Information Center, 13-58.