Since Congress refuses to do anything about NSA surveillance programs, a privacy group headquartered in Washington will do it for them.
A Washington, D.C.-based privacy rights group confirmed to The Hill that they will file an emergency petition with the Supreme Court on Monday in an effort to shut down the National Security Agency's (NSA) gathering of domestic telephone records.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group, said the "exceptional circumstances" surrounding the NSA program requires an immediate response from the nation's highest court.
EPIC argued that it can't go the traditional route through the court system because the lower courts have no authority over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which monitors the NSA programs.
A handful of other law suits were filed in the aftermath of the NSA revelations, but EPIC's executive director, Marc Rotenberg, told the New York Times, which first reported the move, that his group's petition would be the first to challenge the FISA court's ability to approve NSA requests to collect phone record data under the Patriot Act.
In their petition, EPIC argues that the secret intelligence court "exceeded its statutory jurisdiction when it ordered production of millions of domestic telephone records that cannot plausibly be relevant to an authorized investigation."
Theoretically, the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over FISC, although in practice, no one has ever challenged the secret court by petitioning SCOTUS.
Since this is uncharted territory, no one can hazard a guess as to what the Supremes might do. If history is any guide, it is very rare for the Supreme Court to grant petitions that come to it without any buffering decisions from a lower court. But EPIC appears to have a case about lower courts not being competent to adjudicate a matter over which they may have no jurisdiction.
But shutting down a program that the government says is "vital" to our national security? It would have to be a very compelling argument for the Supremes to stretch the limits of their authority to make that kind of decision.