The Supreme Court on Monday opted to not take up the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program that collects bulk telephone data of millions of Americans, a decision that arrives as the other two branches of government are moving forward with reforms to the controversial practice.
The denial leaves in place a lower-court ruling late last year that described the NSA’s collection of phone “metadata” — such as call times and phone numbers but not the content of conversations — as “almost Orwellian” and a likely breach of the Fourth Amendment. Other federal judges have deemed the program legal.
Lawyer and conservative activist Larry Klayman had chosen to take his case directly to the Supreme Court after District Judge Richard Leon’s high-profile December decision, an unusual move that bypassed the Appeals Court, on grounds the case was of immediate, pressing concern to the public.
But the Supreme Court rejected Klayman’s request Monday by failing to grant the case certiorari, a process that requires four of the nine justices to agree a petition merits the court’s full review.
The Court’s decision to not immediately go ahead with a review of the NSA’s controversial surveillance program exposed by Edward Snowden last year means that any changes to it will — for the time being — go through Congress and President Obama, who has already announced a proposal that would require telephone companies, rather than the government, to retain the vast database of phone records. To access that data, the NSA would need to first obtain an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, although the agency could bypass the court in emergency situations.
Obama has said the program will continue in its current state until Congress passes legislation that closely resembles his proposal. A bill introduced last month by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the panel’s top Democrat, echoes Obama’s plan, but would allow the NSA to force companies to turn over particular records that would be go through court review after the fact.
But even as lawmakers and the president have weighed surveillance reforms, some have urged the judicial branch to help resolve the issue.
“My hope is that the Supreme Court will take this case,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, a vocal defender of the intelligence community, said following Leon’s high-profile “Orwellian” ruling last year.
The Supreme Court can still choose to consider cases involving the NSA’s surveillance activities, but Monday’s decision reaffirms expectations that the justices would rather allow the issue to percolate within the circuit courts first.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."