On April 7, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States turned down a request to take an early look on whether the U.S. government’s gathering of Americans’ phone records is unlawful. That decision means the dispute will have to work its way through the usual lower-court process. The justices rejected the request without comment, and now, it could take many months before the justices look at any legal challenge to the controversial surveillance. Attorney, conservative and fighter for good government Larry Klayman is the main engine behind the case.
The NSA surveillance came to light after former government contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the collection to U.S. and British media last year. The documents revealed that a U.S. surveillance court had “secretly approved” the collection of millions of phone records in the United States, such as the length of calls and the numbers dialed.
Klayman and fellow plaintiff, Charles Strange, had contended the issue was so urgent that the high court should not wait for a Washington federal appeals court to rule in the case concerning the National Security Agency.
Back in December, Klayman had persuaded a federal judge to rule that the agency’s activities likely violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches. The judge in Washington, D.C., put his decision on hold pending a government appeal. However, just days after they won that case, a federal judge in New York had reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case in New York brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. That judge had validated with the spy program, saying it was an effective ‘counterpunch’ to terrorist acts.
Klayman’s lawsuit is one of two concurrent NSA cases going through the federal appeals system. Kentucky Senator and conservative Republican Rand Paul and conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks filed a class-action suit back in February seeking to have the surveillance program declared unconstitutional. Scores of other groups including environmental groups, human rights activists and church leaders brought a similar challenge in San Francisco.
Who are Klayman and Strange? Klayman is a well-known advocate for freedom, and government transparency and is founder of FreedomWatch. According to Reuters, Strange is the father of a U.S. cryptologist technician killed in Afghanistan in 2011.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department declined a request for comment. The Obama administration has defended the NSA program as a “crucial and effective tool against terrorism.”