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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.