In July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center responded to whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s leaks by petitioning the Supreme Court to vacate the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requiring communications providers to turn over telephone records to the National Security Agency. The Administration of Barack Obama has now responded to the petition, urging the Supreme Court to reject the challenge and to allow the NSA to continue spying on Americans unmolested.
Along with other defenses, the Administration said that the EPIC challenge is unwarranted because phone companies could challenge the secret orders from the FISC court for information. To date, however, there have been no challenges to FISC orders from telecom providers.
The Feds also allege that the Patriot Act provisions that allow the NSA phone data collection disallow third parties like EPIC to challenge the government’s actions.
“Congress established that only specified parties — the government or the recipient of an order — may seek review in this Court of a FISC decision under Section 1861,” the Administration said.
EPIC’s challenge to the NSA data-collection program came on the heels of Snowden’s explosive revelations of widespread government spying justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. That section grants FISC the ability to authorize broad warrants for several types of Americans’ records, including those held by banks, doctors and phone companies, with no suspicion of links to terror or wrongdoing.
The spying has been going on in its current capacity since 2006, according to government officials.
“As of October 1, 2013, fourteen different judges of the FISC, on thirty-four separate occasions, have approved Section 1861 orders directing telecommunications service providers to produce records in connection with the Telephony Records Program,” the Administration said in its rebuttal to the EPIC petition.
But EPIC maintains that the Federal government has long used a perverted interpretation of the Patriot Act in order to collect troves of data about Americans at home and abroad without linking its efforts to particular investigations.
“The ongoing collection of the domestic telephone records of millions of Americans by the NSA, untethered to any particular investigation, is beyond the authority granted by Congress to the FISC…” according to EPIC’s petition.
EPIC chronicles its fight against NSA spying here.
Note from the Editor: Under the Obama Administration, the NSA, the IRS, and the State and Justice departments are blatantly stepping on Americans’ privacy—and these are just the breaches we’re aware of. I’ve arranged for readers to get a free copy of The Ultimate Privacy Guide so you can be protected from any form of surveillance by anyone—government, corporate or criminal. Click here for your free copy.