EPIC petitions US Supreme court to stop NSA domestic phone spying

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed on Monday a petition with the US Supreme Court asking it to put a stop to the disclosure of the telephone records of millions of US citizens.

According to the privacy organization, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) “did not have legal authority to compel Verizon to turn over all domestic telephone ‘metadata’ to the NSA”, and they are asking the Court to annul it.

“It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation,” they claim.

EPIC, a non-profit organization engaged in legal work and advocacy, is also a Verizon customer, and the aforementioned FISC Order “also mandates that Verizon produce data about EPIC’s confidential attorney-client relationships and other privileged information.”

“At present, EPIC is in litigation with both the NSA and FBI, the two agencies responsible for tracking Americans’ private communications under this order. EPIC also has ongoing FOIA lawsuits against other elements of the Intelligence Community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency,” they pointed out.

“Further, by ordering surveillance of all Verizon customers, the FISC permitted the NSA to gather the metadata of EPIC’s conversations with consumers, advisors and advisees, donors, other privacy advocates, Members of Congress, agency officials, and journalists. This surveillance chills those communications and associations that are protected by the First Amendment.”

Similar claims have previously been stated in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in early June with the Southern District of New York district court.

Also on Monday, a federal judge rejected the US government’s latest attempt to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) challenge to the government’s surveillance programs.

“The court rightly found that the traditional legal system can determine the legality of the mass, dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans and rejected the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Legal Director. “Today’s decision sets the stage for finally getting a ruling that can stop the dragnet surveillance and restore Americans’ constitutional rights.”

This decision means that the Jewel v. NSA case the EFF filed in 2008 can move forward under the supervision of a public federal court.

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