Privacy Group Petitions Supreme Court to Stop NSA Phone Surveillance

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When Edward Snowden recently revealed the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance programs, he set in motion a trans-Atlantic legal backlash.

On Monday, privacy groups in the United Kingdom and the United States launched lawsuits aimed at halting sweeping spy initiatives exposed last month by the 30-year-old former NSA contractor who leaked secret documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center announced that it is filing an emergency petition with the Supreme Court in a bid to end the NSA’s daily collection of millions of Americans’ call records. The civil liberties group alleges in a petition to the court released Monday that the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “exceeded its statutory authority” when it signed off on an order authorizing the collection of millions of Verizon business customers’ phone records. EPIC argues that “it is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation.” It adds that the surveillance violates the First Amendment.

EPIC is filing the challenge directly with the Supreme Court because it says that the FISC will only hear petitions from the government or from companies in receipt of an order demanding they turn over data. In addition, lower federal courts, according to EPIC, have no jurisdiction to hear the appeal. In a 2012 case that reined in the government’s warrantless use of GPS trackers, the Supreme Court asserted that “awareness that the government may be watching chills associational and expressive freedoms.” A similar principle could be applicable in regard to the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records.

On the other side of the Atlantic, a separate legal challenge was lodged Monday in response to the government surveillance programs disclosed by Snowden. London-based Privacy International filed a complaint alleging that British spy agency GCHQ may be circumventing U.K. law by obtaining data on British citizens from the NSA’s PRISM Internet surveillance program. PRISM enables the NSA to collect data from companies including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. The Guardian revealed last month..

Read more: http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2013/07/08/nsa_phone_spying_epic_privacy_international_file_lawsuits_to_halt_government.html