US Supreme Court takes pass on cyberspying petition

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Although the Supreme Court of the United States decided Monday, not to consider a petition challenging the legality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities, one cybersecurity expert at IU expects the issue will eventually come before the nine justices.

Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor Fred Cate said he was not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision but was still disappointed.

The petition was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center after disclosures by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the federal government was collecting telephone data on all U.S. citizens. EPIC argued that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court exceeded its legal authority when it ordered Verizon Business Network Services Inc. to turn over to the NSA all telephone records on all customers.

Cate was the lead author of an amicus curiae brief that supported the petition’s call for the Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus. After the petition was filed, Cate conceded the probability of the court granting the petition’s request for a writ of mandamus was slim. However, the petition argued, the court had to act because the NSA ignored Congress’s directives.

If the Supreme Court had granted the writ of mandamus, that would have prevented the government from overstepping its authority. Instead, the court sent the opposite message.   

“What the Supreme Court has said, by not saying anything, is ‘tough luck,’” Cate said.

The Obama administration argued the Supreme Court should deny the petition because it had not been considered by the district courts. The problem with that argument, Cate said, is that the district courts and the FISC are on equal footing and one does not have authority over the other.

Even so, a fair number of other petitions charging that FISC’s exclusive jurisdiction is unconstitutional are pending in district courts. A district court or appellate court agreeing with a petitioner would cause the administration to urge the Supreme Court to get involved, Cate said. Federal officials will likely contend the issue is one of national security.

The mere filing of these petitions will not be enough to get the NSA and the administration to rethink its actions, Cate said. In fact, the only thing that got their attention was the concern from industry and foreign leaders over the cyberspying by the United States.



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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.