Justices expect to hear case on NSA spying

 

Two Supreme Court justices suggested late Thursday that the high court will likely decide the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. 

"We can't run away and say, 'Well, we don't know much about that subject so we won't decide it,' " liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said at a joint event with Justice Antonin Scalia, Reuters reports

At the National Press Club event, they were asked whether the Supreme Court would take up cases related to NSA surveillance operations disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden. 

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Scalia, one of the most conservative justices, said the court might not be the best institution to wade into national security issues.

He suggested, however, the Supreme Court would likely decide whether gathering a wide swath of telecommunications data violates the Fourth Amendment.

“The institution that will decide that is the institution least qualified to decide it," Scalia said. The legal question is about "balancing the emergency against the intrusion" on the individual, Scalia said.

Reuters said neither Scalia nor Ginsberg discussed specific NSA programs, which have already been challenged in lawsuits pending in lower courts.

Last December, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled the NSA’s metadata program was probably unconstitutional, but a judge in New York soon after said it was legal. 

The Obama administration has already announced proposals to reform its surveillance practices including moving the metadata, or phone records, out of the government’s hands.