back to article Supreme Court can't find barge pole long enough to touch NSA lawsuit

The US Supreme Court has decided that it will not hear a challenge to the NSA's controversial mass surveillance operations. The court declined to hear the case brought forward by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) against the NSA over its slurping of citizens' personal records from the US mobile carrier Verizon …


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  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    Laws are for the little people.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Very true, but so is voting. It doesn't even have to come down to voting for another party, you choose at the primary stage, challenge candidates to end this overreach. Sure a large chunk of them will misremember their promises (you can keep your doctor, period. ) but it's pretty much the only route for attack left. SCOTUS is an always has been a sham, it's political and if there's one thing a court should not be, it is partisan \ at the whim of political parties.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        You're cute when you believe the system works.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Et tu, Trevor

          "You're cute when you believe the system works".

          But it works extremely well, Trevor. Exactly as it was designed to.

          Oh - you mean "for us". You're cute when you believe the system was ever meant to work for us.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Et tu, Trevor

            If the system worked as designed those in power would never need fear upstarts or shifts in power. The "new rich" have been a problem for ages and power has changed hands frequently enough that those in power are not guaranteed their status for the duration of their own lives, let alone multi-generational aristocracies.

            The system doesn't work for anyone. Not those in power and not those being governed.

            1. Rampant Spaniel

              It doesn't work because retards keep voting for the party their daddy voted for or for whoever tells the most lies on TV. The legal approach won't work, the only chance (and I agree it is a microscopic chance) is to make it a political point. If you want to stop this spying no court will do that. The buck stops with the politicians. They authorized it, they have let it grow, they pick the damn judges who you want to stop it. You seriously thought they would? That's cute ;)

    2. LarsG

      The NSA have so much cr*p on the Judges that none of them want to take this on.....

  2. doronron

    Putin of the NSA

    If the Supreme Court doesn't have jurisdiction to decide what is constitutional then who does? General Alexander? Because that's whose in charge right now.

  3. Brian Miller

    Big difference between search and surveillance!

    There's a big difference between watching what you do in public, and rifling through your stuff! Like the EFF, I'm disappointed in the Supreme Court. They chickened out. Who does the public go to for redress?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big difference between search and surveillance!

      Who does the public go to for redress?

      Where the buck stops - Obama. And good luck.

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        Whom does the public go to for redress?

        Anonymous Coward of 02:20 GMT (and Brian), the proper body from whom to seek redress in this case is Congress — to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and/or §215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, for reining in the excesses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders. However, given the current political climate and the apparent satisfaction of the executive branch with the status quo, it is highly unlikely that there would be enough votes in favor of an amending act to override a presidential veto. Thus, the likeliest possibility for redress would likely come through the Supreme Court granting a future petition for a writ of mandamus from a similar case yet to find its way before the justices — that is, don’t hold your breath waiting for another such case to appear.

  4. DrJaymansLoveCookie

    "...the Supreme Court decided it doesn't have the need nor authority to make a decision on the legitimacy of the claim against the NSA."


    1. Tom 13

      @ DrJaymansLoveCookie

      Except of course that the "journalist" who wrote that lied.

      SCOTUS decided not to hear the case and made no comment. Talk to any thinking source and they all predicted this would happen. First up, you have the problem of standing to bring suit. Normally this requires evidence that you have been injured to bring suit. The whole problem with the FISA regime is that no one can prove they are on any such lists, so no one has standing. Secondly, the EFF chose to bypass the lower courts on the theory that only SCOTUS could hear the case. SCOTUS wasn't likely to take a case the lower courts haven't either heard, or denied cert and explained why the cert was denied. That sort of play reads more like a PR ploy than an actual attempt to hear a case.

      If I were a lawyer attempting to overturn this I'd scan the Snowden files and find a regular citizen* specifically named in his documentation. Then contact that person, use the released records to bring suit for him and go from there. If Snowden is actually releasing the kinds of data everyone claims he is, that information will be there. And the damage will be there as well. At that point you have an actual case.

      *No, you probably can't use a politician, even the Pope. The truth is, everybody spies on everybody else. Bring suit on that front and you're more likely to embarrass your own government than the one against which you brought suit.

      1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

        EPIC’s approach

        Tom, I agree that the Supreme Court certainly had the authority to make a decision on this case had they chosen to, in contradiction to Shaun’s claim in his article.

        The reason why EPIC petitioned to have the Supreme Court grant a writ of mandamus was for two reasons: (1) the lower courts have no jurisdiction over the FISC, and thus would not be able to grant relief for the FISC’s actions; and (2) EPIC was not a recipient of a FISC order, and so couldn’t challenge the order within the FISC. That left only the Supreme Court as a possible source of relief. Certiorari is intended to instruct a lower court to apply judicial review; mandamus is intended for judicial remedy, to have the Supreme Court itself review a federal agency (in this case, the FISC) for abuse of discretion.

        I have to disagree with the notion that EPIC’s petition was merely a “PR ploy”; given the circumstances surrounding the FISC’s Verizon order and the legal limitations in seeking relief from it, I saw this as an entirely bona fide effort from EPIC. (EPIC is a Verizon customer.)

  5. Adam 1

    EPIC fail in the Supreme Court.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some men in suits payed them a visit with some slurped data. It would have been awful for them (Supreme Court judges) for it to get out accidentally.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The NSA has data on the Supreme Court judges....maybe..

    Set your conspiracy theory detector modules to: 7...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You're not asking the right questions. The question is what does the NSA have on the members of the Supreme Court which might come to light should the case go into adjudication? What have members of the Supreme Court being doing that the don't want the world to know about?

  9. Tony Paulazzo

    How brave of the supreme court to uphold the constitution they were created to protect.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      yup and how does one get selected to sit on SCOTUS? You are nominated by the president and confirmed by the senate. That is where their loyalty lies, not the constitution. In England high court judges are selected by the Judicial Appointments Commission (then confirmed by the queen) which is made up largely of legal professionals of one nature or another and they select based upon merit, not political loyalty.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Well, technically, once a judge is appointed, no one can get rid of him (source), so they do not necessarily have "loyalty" towards anyone since nobody can touch them once they are in position.

        Obviously, I understand that this is not the way the world works, and quite a few SCOTUS judges have been known, and some are known, for specific positions on various subjects that are in line with the president who placed them there.

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Whilst that is true, they frequently rule along party lines which is a little unsettling given they are supposed to be the final arbiters of federal law not law makers. Methinks they know who put them there :) and as you say that person also selected them for their opinions. Sadly this just makes a mockery of the system. They should make judgments based upon their professional opinion of the law, not their personal beliefs \ cloud father diktats.

  10. Gray

    2nd verse, same as first ...

    it ain't no better, but it could get worse! Thus the familiar dirge goes.

    Traditional US government agency progression following its creation by Congress is to write and impose a body of regulations which effectively have the force of law, supposedly under Congressional oversight but practically speaking, free of any such pesky interference.

    The progression, then, is for the agency to skew its activity in some manner not foreseen or intended by Congress. Rarely does Congress step in to take back the reins of control to hold that agency accountable to original Congressional intent (if, in fact, any clear intent had been defined in the empowering Act.)

    A lovely side effect is to burden US citizens with oppressive agency actions, which in turn leads to endless petitions to Congressional representatives for relief, which creates a self-perpetuating need for Representative intervention and a perpetual growth of Congressional funding and staffing.

    As seen since the beginnings of the Cold War and beyond, the US spy agencies' self-directed missions have skewed exponentially in proportion to perceived threats to US security; their mission creep became a tsunami with the upthrust of the Patriot Act.

    Congress has little incentive and, indeed, sees great risk in intervention; the Supremes have no mandate to interfere, inasmuch as there has never been a US right to privacy outside the four walls of an individual's domicile, and even that definition has narrowed over time.

    A US citizen's "inalienable rights" are precious few, and those few are impossibly expensive to defend. As laudable as the EFF and the ACLU missions may be, there will likely never be a mandated right to privacy in America, nor any verifiable protection against US spying for any person or nation outside US borders.

    BTW, I truly admire how it's a criminal offense to withhold one's password in the U.K.

    Brilliant! Simply brilliant!

  11. seven of five

    Soooo this is why the arm themselves

    The Supreme Court is the supreme judical institution within the US, now isn´t it?

    So this is why the US citizens arm themselves. At last I understand. Unfortunately, guns won´t help them poor slobs.

    How save I feel with the uk being part of this :(

    1. Tom 13

      Re: he Supreme Court is the supreme judical institution within the US, now isn´t it?

      Yes and no.

      Section 1 specifies there is one Supreme court for the US. But Section 2 says:

      In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

      So Section 2 explicitly gives Congress the power to make exceptions to how cases affecting public ministers are handled. The logical extension is that the NSA are acting as public ministers in their official duties. As such, Congress might have the authority to create a separate court chain to hear national security cases. The tension between these Sections has never been challenged. What we have at the moment is something close to that with FISA hearing all the national security cases. But since SCOTUS has not explicitly ruled on the subject there is sufficient ambiguity that they might hold for only one Supreme Court.

      For myself, I can't see having two Supreme Courts, one which hears only national security issues and one which hears everything else. At some point one or the other must yield. But I wouldn't bet a dollar of my paycheck that you can't find a lawyer to argue you can and that SCOTUS wouldn't see things his way.

  12. Old Handle
    Thumb Down

    Do your job, damn it.

    I don't know what the right standard to decide this is, but I don't think SCOTUS should be allowed to simply ignore obviously important cases like this. Especially since no other court can take the case.

  13. Franklin

    The Supreme Court will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the NSA has dissolved the court permanently. The last remnants of the Old Republic have been swept away forever.

  14. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    He/She/They who pay the Piper, call the Tunes*

    In declining the case, the Supreme Court decided it doesn't have the need nor authority to make a decision on the legitimacy of the claim against the NSA.

    That is also an admission that they do no have the brain power to match or eclipse and/or defeat the NSA and their task masters/leading mentors and smart monitors. But that is surely no surprise to anybody in this day and age of paid for justice.

    *And if you think Machines Real and/or Virtual are now Running and Accountable and Responsible for All Things Practical and/or Ethereal, then must one entitle another to the Prime Subject Pronoun Mix..... He/She/IT/They who pay the Piper, call the Tunes.

    And would that Realisation be a useful and valid legitimate out for stupid humans who are found to be deeply engaged in right dodgy trades and fully criminally inspired and illogical acts? Or would the defence ... "It be the IT machines which did it " be quite so ridiculously particular and peculiar as to be laughed right out of court by a jury of peers?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting, this would seem to prove that the NSA operates outside the legal framework of the nation and that the NSA is very much above the law as the law doesn't seem to apply to them at all.

    That's an interesting precedent for the world police champion of freedom USA to set.

  16. codejunky Silver badge


    The supreme court isnt so supreme. I expect they pointed to the higher authority above them who is willing and impartial? Or do I expect too much?

    I feel sorry for the US. They are being taken over a barrel and anyone with power seems corrupt. On the plus side the US have visible protests, in the UK we bend over and ask for more.

  17. Mephistro

    Oh, well... (A grain of optimism)

    At this stage in the game:

    - The general public is not yet aware of the implications and consequences of the NSA surveillance.

    - The consequences for (most of) the people aren't yet too damaging, or even perceived as damaging. A few years more of corporatocracy and unbridled state power will change this, by lowering the living standards for most of the population to XIX century levels, at which point The People will realize they have nothing to lose and begin fighting the state.

    - Another consequence is that the people will stop trusting big media and resort to other communication channels, be it the Internet (as long as it doesn't get totally controlled by the goons), mouth to ear or samizdats.

    You may have noticed that I've used the word 'consequences' three times. "The System" is not good at understanding the consequences of it's own actions; greed and short term interests trounce long term survivability every time. And the consequence -again that word- is that there is a revolution coming, and most of the parasites now in charge will be removed. If you don't agree with me, take a look at the French and Russian revolutions.

    Yes, there's still hope, but I reckon things will get worse before improving.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Oh, well... (A grain of optimism)

      Well said, Sir/Madam. Roll on the future, Mephistro, to rid us of current dim and dumb parasites whose present disruptive and destructive actions do not permit them to defend themselves in sound and vision whenever they be so easily exposed and understood as being more exclusive and self-serving than transparent and mutually beneficial to all.

      And that future train is hurtling down the line with no brakes or uphill climbs to halt its rapid progress to places and spaces waiting for ITs Revisionary Evolutionary Programs for Earthed Assets in Human Capital with Super Natural Resources. ....... Global Planetary Bounty.

      How many grains of optimism are needed for thought transfer teleportation into astute active autonomous revolutionary fervour servering indomitable insatiable passions for Just Lusts? :-)

      An additional problem for all and any existing present and past leadership stage players, is that there is always a stored evidence trail of early contact with revisionary bods and intelligent boffins introducing leaderships to the problems and probable solutions that they shouldn’t have ignored because now and in the future would it lead to the wider community realising that they have been wilfully abused and used by their past leaderships and the systems they were supporting/aiding and abetting/propping up.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Supreme Court is the final arbitrator of all constitutional law disputes.

    "In declining the case, the Supreme Court decided it doesn't have the need nor authority to make a decision on the legitimacy of the claim against the NSA."

    If NSA is not under the authority of the Supreme court then this means the NSA is not subject to constitutional laws.

    That this passes unnoticed by most 'Mericans is simply a sign of the times.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the NSA Isn't under the jurisdiction of the highest court in the US, then morally its not under the protection of US law.

  20. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Lose points for not ging through lower courts. But OTOH

    This seems like something the Supreme Court should rule on.

    1. Irony Deficient Silver badge

      Re: Lose points for not going through lower courts.

      John, for this case, going through the lower courts was not possible; please see my reply to Tom 13 above.

      Regarding which cases the Supreme Court should hear, these remarks by Chief Justice Rehnquist in 2001 could provide some insight on why they decline to hear most cases.

  21. Charlie van Becelaere
    Thumb Down

    Bloody Cowards

    Please see Title.

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