NSA Surveillance Programs Face Challenges in Court

The federal government's once-secret telephone and Internet surveillance programs face crucial court hearings in Washington and New York this week, and even the Supreme Court is getting in on the act.

The challenges -- brought by liberal, conservative and privacy watchdog groups -- raise the prospect that a federal judge could order at least a temporary halt to the National Security Agency's snooping on millions of Americans.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on Monday will hear former Reagan administration lawyer Larry Klayman's request for preliminary injunctions against both of the government's major surveillance programs.

One sweeps up telephone companies' data from domestic call records, even though the targets are foreign terrorists.

The other goes after cellphone and computer data from major wireless companies and Internet service providers.

"This whole NSA thing unites both political ideologies," Klayman says. "The whole country is outraged."

Four days later, U.S. District Judge William Pauley will hear the American Civil Liberties Union's request for a preliminary injunction against the telephone surveillance program. The ACLU case contends that the USA Patriot Act does not authorize such widespread spying.

"Neither the statute nor the Constitution permits the government to engage in that kind of dragnet surveillance of hundreds of millions of people who haven't done anything wrong," says Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU's deputy legal director.

A third case up for review Monday was brought directly to the Supreme Court by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

Although the government is the target in the other cases, EPIC is going after the top-secret court that authorized the surveillance of Verizon phone records.

"The (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court exceeded its authority under current law," says Marc Rotenberg, the group's executive director.

The Supreme Court request is considered a long shot because the justices rarely accept cases that don't filter up from lower courts.

In all three cases, the Justice...

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