The Supreme Court declined to hear a constitutional challenge to a secretive government surveillance program, dealing a setback to privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a looming debate in Congress over whether to renew the law that authorizes the intelligence tool.
In a brief order issued on February 2023, the high court said it wouldn’t hear arguments challenging the legality of the National Security Agency program known as “Upstream,” in which the intelligence agency collects and monitors internet communications without obtaining search warrants. Classified details about the program were among those exposed a decade ago by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has been charged with theft of government property and violating espionage laws and lives in Russia.
The legal challenge was brought by Wikimedia, the nonprofit owner of the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. Wikimedia was represented by lawyers at the ACLU, Cooley LLP and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. Wikimedia’s lawyers urged the high court to rein in the “state secrets privilege,” a legal doctrine that allows the government to shut down lawsuits that could jeopardize sensitive national-security information.
“The Supreme Court’s refusal to grant our petition strikes a blow against an individual’s right to privacy and freedom of expression—two cornerstones of our society and the building blocks of Wikipedia,” said James Buatti, Wikimedia’s legal director, in a statement.
Excerpts from Jan Wolfe and Dustin Volz, Justices Won’t Hear Challenged to NSA Surveillance, Feb. 22, 2023