U.S. justices reject call to review intelligence court action on phone records

WASHINGTON Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:21am EST

WASHINGTON Nov 18 (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would not review a ruling by a secretive intelligence court that authorized government access to millions of Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) phone-call records.

The long-shot case was brought to the court by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research organization. It was first time the high-profile issue has come before the justices since the recent wave of leaks traced to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The court rejected the case in a one sentence order issued Monday.

The Obama administration argued in papers presented to the court that under existing law, only the government or Verizon itself could challenge a ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The intelligence court's activities received widespread public attention in June when the British-based Guardian newspaper published the order that gave permission for the U.S. government to access data of telecoms giant Verizon.

Snowden later identified himself as the leaker and is currently on the run from the U.S. government. He faces a series of criminal charges for disclosing the full scope of U.S. domestic data-gathering activities.

The Supreme Court case is unrelated to a separate challenge to the same program pursued by the American Civil Liberties Union in the Southern District of New York.

EPIC's petition bypassed the usual appeals process, which is why it came before the Supreme Court so quickly.

The case is In re: Electronic Privacy Information Center, U.S. Supreme Court, 13-58. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and David Brunnstrom)

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