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US Supreme Court declines to hear NSA mass phone-slurp case

Leaves door open for later review

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a case brought against the NSA by Verizon customers over the agency's mass collection of mobile phone call data.

Lawyer Larry Klayman won the first round of the case against America's top online spying agency in December, when District of Columbia Judge Richard Leon found in favor of the plaintiff, saying the NSA tactics were an "arbitrary invasion" that was "almost Orwellian."

Rather than continuing to fight the case through the lower court, Klayman and his associates opted to appeal directly to the Supremes after Judge Leon allowed the government to appeal his verdict. The reason given was that the constitutional issues were too important to put off.

The Supreme Court disagrees, it seems, but that won’t kill the issue. At least two other cases are ongoing over the NSA's spying on American citizens, and both are likely to be fought up to the highest court in the land.

The first of these was bought by the ACLU against the director of national intelligence James Clapper and others over the harvesting of call records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The ACLU lost the first round of its case, but has vowed to appeal.

The second case was filed in February by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) and the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks. This too challenges the NSA's actions on constitutional grounds.

The Supreme Court taking a pass doesn't rule them out from considering either Klayman's case - or any of the others – at some point in the future, but not quite yet.

One reason could be because of the interest in the legislature in sorting this thorny issue out. Last month a new bill was introduced by the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act of 2014, and President Obama announced he would push for legislation that would rein in the intelligence agencies – to a limited degree. ®

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