Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia think that the nation’s top court will eventually rule on the NSA’s surveillance activities.
The two, appearing in front of the National Press Club, both touched on the subject, with Justice Scalia calling the Supreme Court the “the institution least qualified to decide” on the matter, and Justice Ginsburg stating that “[the court] can’t run away and say, ‘Well, we don’t know much about that subject so we won’t decide it.’”
While Ginsburg and Scalia are intellectually antithetical, they are personal friends.
In Politico’s encapsulation, the two judges “agreed that freedom of speech is the most important of the freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights.” This is topical given the recent awarding of the Pulitzer prize to the Guardian and the Washington Post for their reporting on the NSA’s mass surveillance activities.
Justice Ginsburg went on to praise the media, and even excuse it of possible sin: “I think the press has played a tremendously important role as watchdog over what the government is doing. That keeps the government from getting too far out of line. Yes, there are excesses in the press, but we have to put up with that.”
How the Supreme Court might vote on the NSA’s work, especially regarding the constitutionality of those activities in the context of the Fourth Amendment, will be pivotal. Potential Supreme Court rulings on legal cases regarding the surveillance programs of the NSA could take some of the wind out of legislative efforts, provided the issue rose to the nation’s highest court in quick order.
If Congress passes moderate reform, and the Supreme Court hands down full censure of bulk data collection — another term for mass surveillance — the work of the two chambers will have been little more than theater. However, if the Court upholds the NSA and its efforts as being within the rules of the Constitution, that could give the intelligence organization more political weight in the Capitol that it could use to push back against those who want to limit its power.
When this hits the nation’s top bench, expect fireworks.