Supreme Court holds off on looking at legality of NSA bulk metadata collection — for now

The case may end up at the Supreme Court eventually — but it likely won't end up there until lower courts hand it up the judicial chain.

Image: Evan Vucci via CNET/CBS Interactive

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined an early look at the constitutionality of the U.S. National Security Agency's bulk metadata collection program, which was first disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. 

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The case was brought by lawyer Larry Klayman, who persuaded a lower federal judge in December who ruled that the intelligence agency's massive phone record collection activities were likely unconstitutional .

But the highest justices in the U.S. declined to hear the case, and said it must go through the traditional appeals court process first.

Klayman argued that the case is of "such imperative public importance" to wait for the lower courts to reach a verdict, only for it to be passed to the Supreme Court. While Klayman was granted an injunction against the intelligence agency, it was stayed pending an appeal by the Obama administration.

According to Ars Technica, as the bulk metadata provision, known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, expires in June 2015, the chances are the future of the mass surveillance program will play out in political circles rather than in the courts. 

There are a number of bills on deck to replace the Patriot Act, which was brought out following the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York in 2011 — including from the law's own author, notably the Freedom Act.

The bill is widely accepted by critics and supporters alike as the best solution to end the bulk metadata program and reform the secretive court that authorizes surveillance, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

(via Associated Press)