Despite Hurricane Sandy, the Supreme Court on Monday entertained oral arguments on whether it should halt a legal challenge to a once-secret warrantless surveillance program targeting Americans’ communications, a program that Congress eventually legalized in 2008.
The hearing marked the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed any case touching on the eavesdropping program that was secretly employed by the President George W. Bush administration in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, and largely codified into law years later.
Just three weeks ago that the Supreme Court closed a six-year-old chapter in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s bid to hold the nation’s telecoms liable for allegedly providing the National Security Agency with backdoors to eavesdrop, without warrants, on Americans’ electronic communications in violation of federal law. The justices, without comment, declined to review a lower court’s December decision dismissing the EFF’s lawsuit. At the center of the dispute was legislation retroactively immunizing the telcos from being sued for cooperating with the government in Bush’s warrantless spy program.