The United States Supreme Court denied a petition today that requested clarification on the lawfulness of a top-secret order approved in April that allowed the United States full access to Verizon Wireless customers' phone records. The order was approved April 25 by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which allowed the National Security Agency to legally collect telephone records from the wireless provider for three months. Verizon was required to provide the information on a daily basis for all customers, even if no wrongdoing was suspected. The Electronic Privacy Information Center, who is also a Verizon customer, filed a writ of mandamus to the Supreme Court in July, and by the end of October, the government responded with a request to "shield from review" the decision made by the FISC since the order "implicates the privacy interests of all America."
In its complaint, the EPIC presented two questions to the court: Whether FISC had a legal right to approve the government's request; and if the EPIC is entitled to relief from the order. The government argued that the Supreme Court does not have the power to review orders approved the FISC, as it is "an inferior court," and the case should be thrown out. Without even making a comment as to the validity of the mandamus, the Supreme Court denied the advocacy groups plea. According to the Supreme Court of the United States Blog, the way the group went about its request was very unusual. It skipped proceedings through lower court action, and went straight to the Supreme Court. The group contended that other courts did not want to challenge the decision made by the FISC, and that is why they were bypassed. In the end, the EPIC was told it could attempt to get the case heard through the judicial ladder, by starting from the ground and working its way up. If they do this however, the government is surely to thwart further challenges.