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Privacy group files Supreme Court petition challenging NSA spying

Law Enforcement Columnist, Jim Kouri

~~By Jim Kouri~~

(Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He is a frequent guest on The Morning Zone every other Tuesday)

A public-interest research organization based in Washington, D.C., on Monday became one of the first major groups to take legal action with regard to a National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance operation that was discovered when a contracted NSA systems analyst, Edward Snowden, illegally released classified information.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Mandamus Petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the Court vacate an unlawful order by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that enables the collection of all domestic phone record by the NSA.

The Mandamus Petition states:

“The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) respectfully petitions for a writ of mandamus and prohibition to vacate the order of the Honorable Roger Vinson of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and prohibit such future orders, or, in the alternative, for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

The order from the FISA court Judge Roger Vinson, directed to Verizon, requires the production of all “call detail records” for calls made “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

“It is simply not possible that every phone record in the possession of a telecommunications firm could be relevant to an authorized investigation. . . . Such an interpretation of [the law] would render meaningless the qualifying phrases contained in the provision and eviscerate the purpose of the [FISA] Act,” said EPIC attorneys, including its executive director, Marc Rotenberg.

Rotenberg served as counsel to Senator Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate Judiciary Committee after graduation from law school. Ironically, Leahy garnered the nickname “Leaky Leahy” when it was discovered that as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee he leaked classified information to a newspaper reporter. Leahy allegedly perpetrated leaks in opposition to President Ronald Reagan’s anti-Soviet Union and anti-communist agenda. As a result, Leahy was removed from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Last month, Sen. Leahy introduced legislation to curb certain provisions of the FISA court law. Upon introducing his bill he released a statement that said, in part, that “the recent public revelations about two classified data collection programs have brought renewed attention to the Government’s broad surveillance authorities, and they underscore the need for close scrutiny by Congress.”

“The Director of National Intelligence has acknowledged that they are being conducted pursuant to Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. The comprehensive legislation that I am introducing… will not only improve the privacy protections and accountability provisions associated with these authorities, but also strengthen oversight and transparency provisions in other parts of the USA Patriot Act,” stated Leahy.

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