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NSA Spying Challenge Won’t Reach High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) - Electronic privacy defenders failed to persuade the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the government's telephone surveillance of Americans.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center wanted the justices to vacate an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that required Verizon Business Network Services to give the National Security Agency call detail records, or "telephony metadata," for all calls wholly within the United States.

The secret document came to light in a news story for the Guardian by Glenn Greenwald.

Judge Roger Vinson signed the April 25, 2013, order for the FISC, which bars the parties from disclosing it and expires on July 19.

It exempts the "substantive contents of any communication," and the "name, address, or financial information of a subscriber or customer" from release to the NSA.

No lower court had ruled on EPIC's case before it petitioned the justices for a writ of mandamus.

In its petition, EPIC said that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not allow Verizon customers, including EPIC, "to challenge the order or seek review of the order before the FISC or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. Consequently, EPIC can only obtain relief with a writ of mandamus from this Court. Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, but the Verizon Order carries extraordinary ramifications."

The petition called for mandamus relief based on the breach of FISC's statutory jurisdiction in ordering "production of millions of domestic telephone records that cannot plausibly be relevant to an authorized investigation."

Per its custom Monday, the Supreme Court denied EPIC's petition without comment.

EPIC president Marc Rotenberg noted his disappointment with the Supreme Court's decision not to review the case. The group said Rotenberg will be discussing the matter at symposium Tuesday sponsored by Georgetown University Law Center.

U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R - Wis., the author of the Patriot Act, will serve as the event's key note speaker. The congressman submitted an amicus brief supporting the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge to the NSA's domestic spying program this past September.


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