The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ducked an invitation to review the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's electronic eavesdropping practices.
The challenge was the first case to reach the court since documents leaked by Edward Snowden disclosed the broad outlines of the NSA's snooping programs.
The case was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, but it was always considered a long shot because of the way it came to the court's doorstep. EPIC bypassed the lower courts and went directly to the Supreme Court, reasoning that only the justices could tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court what to do.
But such direct filings are rarely granted. Monday's rejection came without comment, as it the usual practice.
The challenge focused on the intelligence court's ruling that authorized government access to millions of Verizon phone-call records specifically.
The Obama administration argued in papers presented to the court that under existing law, only the government or Verizon itself could challenge a ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The intelligence court's activities received widespread public attention in June when the British-based Guardian newspaper published the order that gave permission for the federal government to access data of telecoms giant Verizon.
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, later identified himself as the leaker and is currently in Russia on the run from the U.S. government. He faces a series of criminal charges for disclosing the full scope of domestic data-gathering activities.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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First published November 18 2013, 7:28 AM