Supreme Court hears arguments in wiretap case against government
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices were surprisingly skeptical Monday about arguments by a top Justice Department lawyer seeking to squelch an anti-wiretapping lawsuit brought by lawyers, journalists and activists.
At issue in the case is the government’s power to secretly monitor international phone calls and email under a policy approved by Congress four years ago.
It allows U.S. spy agencies to target people or places overseas and to intercept all the phone calls and email to and from these people or places.
Almost inevitably, that means American lawyers or activists who speak with clients and contacts in places such as Afghanistan or Pakistan will have their messages overheard, and it was those lawyers and activists who sued.
But U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., defending the National Security Agency, called that “speculation” insufficient to justify a lawsuit.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Anthony M. Kennedy took issue with Verrilli. Their comments and reactions from other justices during the hourlong argument suggest that the court might allow the lawsuit to proceed.
Still, the justices focused only on whether the plaintiffs had standing to sue the government. They did not provide a view on whether such surveillance would be deemed an “unreasonable search” under the Fourth Amendment.