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Obama lawyers fight SCOTUS: Don’t review NSA spy case

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Attorneys for the Obama administration are urging the Supreme Court not to review a case involving the National Security Agency’s phone tracking program.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli filed a brief Monday saying the Court “does not have the jurisdiction” to hear the petition filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center in July, which asked the Court to “vacate the order of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that requires Verizon to turn over all telephone records to the NSA, according to the Center.

EPIC’s petition to the Supreme Court, which received support from members of Congress and others, said the “Intelligence Court exceeded its legal authority and could not compel a telephone company to disclose so much personal information unrelated to a foreign intelligence investigation,” according to its website.

But Verrilli and Justice Department attorneys argue that EPIC “lacks legal standing to challenge a U.S. National Security Agency data collection program” and that the Court “doesn’t have jurisdiction to grant the group’s request for it to review the program’s legality,” Computerworld reported.

“[EPIC’s] petition… does not meet the stringent requirements for mandamus relief, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari to the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] in these circumstances. Accordingly, the petition should be denied,” Verrilli wrote, according to Politico.

DOJ attorneys also believe that it’s “premature” for the Supreme Court to “weigh in” on the NSA’s call tracking program, saying the “issue should be allowed to percolate in the lower courts,” Politico reported.

But attorney Alan Butler from EPIC told Politico:

The Solicitor General’s filing highlights the importance of EPIC’s challenge (the government was not required to respond under Supreme Court rules, but it chose to after reviewing the petition). As EPIC previously outlined, the Supreme Court is the only possible venue for users affected by the NSA telephone records collection program to seek review of the underlying FISC decision. The current district court cases brought by other groups have challenged the NSA’s collection and use of the metadata, rather than the FISC order. The FISC’s interpretation of “relevance” under the Patriot Act Section 215 is inconsistent with established law and clearly beyond the scope of what Congress intended.

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