| WASHINGTON, July 8
WASHINGTON, July 8 A civil liberties group is
taking the unusual step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to
review a ruling by a secretive intelligence court that
authorized government access to millions of Verizon
Communications Inc phone call records
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said it
would file an emergency application at the high court on Monday.
The court rarely grants such requests.
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.
Edward Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency
contractor, 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.
EPIC is challenging the intelligence court's authority to
authorize such a wide-ranging data-gathering operation. The
government sought the records under Section 215 of the 2001 USA
Patriot Act, which allows for access to "any tangible things" as
part of any authorized investigation related to terrorism or
The EPIC court filing is a long shot as the group is not
following the traditional route for appealing a lower court
decision. The group said in a statement it does not have that
option as there is no other way for it to challenge the
intelligence court's decision.
In the court filing, EPIC's lawyers say emergency review is
warranted because the intelligence court "exceeded its statutory
jurisdiction when it ordered production of millions of domestic
telephone records that cannot plausibly be relevant to an
The intelligence court, set up by Congress in 1978 to help
try to curb abuses in the intelligence community, operates in
secret. Its 11 judges, appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts,
are full-time federal district court judges who take on the task
as an additional responsibility.
There is no adversarial system. The government is the only
Addressing whether EPIC had legal standing to intervene, its
lawyers noted the court decision "implicates the privacy
interests of all Verizon customers," of which the group is one.
EPIC is just one of several civil liberties groups,
including the American Civil Liberties Union, that are taking
legal action in response to the leaks by Snowden, who is
believed to be holed up in the transit area of Moscow's
Sheremetyevo International Airport, where he landed on June 23
from Hong Kong.
The United States has revoked Snowden's passport and wants
him arrested on espionage charges.