Supreme Court Rules on Telephone Surveillance Case
Several times throughout 2013 the Supreme Court has seen challenges to laws for the government’s ability to collect sensitive or personal data from its citizens. The court has refused in the past, but after actions taken by military contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed a massive database of information being kept by the government about all persons within the U.S., an emergency appeal has been filed with the court.
The Meat of the Case
The meat of this appeal is directed at laws passed as anti-terrorism measures. These laws removed a great deal of red tape, in many cases giving the government carte blanche to collect and tap phone information. Huge amounts of data collected from companies like Verizon are the tip of the ice berg, and the public outcry has demanded that something be done to curb the power the government has.
While the court can only review the law in question and declare it constitutional or unconstitutional, the desire voiced by the public is for Congress to put many of the procedural requirements back in place for the federal government to get a warrant in order to tap a phone line or collect any kinds of information. The first step to making this happen is for the law as it currently stands to be reviewed and declared unconstitutional. If that happens then the law cannot be enforced until it is altered to fit the standards set forth by the U.S. Constitution.
Will This Time Work?
There have been several attempts to assail both the laws that allow eavesdropping, as well as the National Security Agency itself. These attempts have thus far proved fruitless, with the Supreme Court refusing to hear the cases brought forth, and other attempts being pushed out by the courts. However, public opinion in America, as well as across the world, has turned against these measures since they were revealed in 2005. Every attempt to limit federal power and to make the will of the people known has gotten a little bit closer, and there is talk that the Supreme Court review of the case will be what it takes to rein in the rampant spying.
On the other hand, the courts are not the only outlet that the American public has for making their voices heard and changing the tactics used by the federal government for collecting information. As mentioned previously it is Congress who makes the laws, and there are citizen groups appealing to their representatives to try and mitigate the damage by changing the letter of the law. While the changes made have to be constitutional as well, there are some members of the public who feel that it’s better to go to the source of the problem and to make Congress change these laws to limit the free hand the federal government has.
No one is certain precisely what will come of this latest challenge, particularly as the Supreme Court doesn’t comment on cases that are still under consideration. However, there is still a great deal riding on this challenge. It isn’t over-dramatic to say that the future of privacy may depend on the results.