Supreme Court declines to review NSA phone spying case

The Supreme Court did not explain why it declined to review the case

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Electronic Privacy Information Center's petition for a review of a National Security Agency phone record data collection program.

EPIC asked the Supreme Court to vacate an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that requires Verizon Communications to turn over all phone records on all of its customers to the NSA.

According to EPIC, that order was unlawful, and it wanted the Supreme Court to review the collection of vast quantities of irrelevant information on American citizens.

The group petitioned the court directly, skipping lower courts, arguing that only the Supreme Court had the proper jurisdiction to review a FISC order.

On Monday, however, the court declined to review the order without explanation. It simply stated that EPIC's request was denied.

EPIC is disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision, and still thinks the surveillance order was unlawful, the organization said in a news release.

"There is simply no way to establish relevance for the collection of all telephone records on all U.S. telephone customers for an intelligence investigation," EPIC said, adding that it is very hard to challenge these orders and it therefore urged the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

EPIC's request to review the surveillance order was disputed by lawyers from the Obama administration in October. They argued that EPIC is not allowed to challenge the legality of phone record collection because the Patriot Act only allows challenges from companies that receive government orders to turn over business records, or from the U.S. government.

The Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction in this case because the order is directed against Verizon, the government lawyers said.

Loek is Amsterdam correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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