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Supreme Court asked to intervene in NSA phone surveillance

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is challenging the legality of the the US government's request for Verizon's phone records.

June 5 SnowdenEnlarge
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 07: A Verizon store is viewed on June 7, 2013 in New York City. In a statement today U.S. President Barack Obama defended the government's surveillance programs following a news leak on June 5 that the U.S. government had been obtaining Verizon's phone records for years. The records were obtained through a secret court order which also revealed that the government has been monitoring business phone calls both nationally and internationally. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A privacy group on Monday asked the United States Supreme Court to intervene in the US government's controversial phone spying program, according to Wired.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is challenging the National Security Agency (NSA)'s legal right to request millions of phone records from Verizon as part of a secret monitoring program revealed in The Guardian newspaper last month

The Guardian reported that the US government ordered Verizon to hand over its customers' phone records, referring to covert authorization from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge. That report, combined with revelations of similar secret programs described by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has reignited debate over the relationship between civil liberties and security in America.

The emergency appeal filed by EPIC on Monday claims the government's Verizon request should not have received FISC court approval in the first place.  

A Verizon customer, EPIC argued: 

"The FISC order for the ongoing production of detailed telephone records, concerning solely  domestic communications, went far beyond the authority set out in the Act. ....This case involves a far-reaching FISC order that gives the NSA access to the telephone call records of millions of Americans on an ongoing basis.  Such a broad grant of executive power is not permitted under the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978] and cannot be justified by a non-particularized connection to general national security threats. “ 

The non-profit submitted the case (read it in full here) at the high-court level instead of starting at lower courts, in a move that CNN said represents the first direct judicial challenge to the Obama administration's surveillance program.