Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case Challenging NSA Mass Surveillance Scheme

The Wikimedia Foundations, which hosts Wikipedia, teamed up with the ACLU and the Knight Institute to try to get the United States Supreme Court to compel Congress to limit the NSA’s internet surveillance powers. 

According to Didi Rankovic of Reclaim the Net, the Supreme Court’s move left the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit with a divided opinion, thereby rendering Wikimedia’s challenge accepting the government’s “state secrets privilege” argument null.

The legal grounds the NSA used for such surveillance are based on FISA (Foreign Surveillance Act) a law that Rankovic observed has grown “into quite a “monster” since it was first passed in 1978, and in particular after 9/11 – and, specifically with Section 702, introduced in 2008.”

Section 702 is set to renew later in 2023, and the petition to the Supreme Court aimed to prevent this. It’s often forgotten that Section 702 was what whistleblower Edward Snowden focused on in his NSA leaks in 2013. 

Wikimedia and the other interested parties tried to guarantee that the NSA “upstream” surveillance program would be “reviewed” as opposed to being renewed this time around. The surveillance program grants the NSA the power to search internet traffic to and from the US, which consists of emails, messages, and other correspondence belonging to Americans.

In other words, individuals on US soil and abroad could be spied on.

Wikimedia’s Legal Director James Buatti criticized the court decision on the grounds that it damages individual rights to privacy and free speech. He argued that these principles are the foundations of Wikimedia and a free, democratic society. 

The foundation also promised to continue pressuring Congress to not reauthorize Section 702 later in 2023.

The ACLU also took exception to the Supreme Court’s move.  It believed that the Supreme Court took the side of “secrecy,” at the expense of Americans’ privacy.

“We depend on the courts to hold the government to account, especially when it wields powerful new technologies to peer into our lives like never before,” stated ACLU Deputy Director of National Security Project Patrick Toomey. 

Toomey also argued that the government is not doing a good job in holding intelligence agencies’ accountable when they use powerful technologies to carry out mass surveillance operations.

Toomey also blamed the Supreme Court for letting the executive branch “hide abuses behind unjustifiable claims of secrecy.”

“It is now up to Congress to insist on landmark reforms that will safeguard Americans in the face of the NSA’s mass spying programs,” Tommey proclaimed.

The Supreme Court can’t always be relied on to uphold traditional American freedoms. Due to its elitist nature, there are limits to how far it will go in reversing government overreach. It’s ultimately up to elected officials who uphold pro-freedom principles to roll back state encroachment. If they can’t do it, it’s going to take state-level nullification to preserve whatever freedoms we have. 

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