Supreme Court Rejects Plea to Look at NSA Program

WASHINGTON (AP) -

The Supreme Court is refusing to intervene in the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency, rejecting a call from a privacy group to stop NSA from collecting the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers in the United States.

While the justices on Monday declined to get involved in this issue, other lawsuits on the topic are making their way through the lower courts around the country.

But in the case at hand, the Electronic Privacy Information Center bypassed lower courts and said that only the Supreme Court can overrule a decision by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, whose order allowing NSA to get the records cannot be reviewed by other federal courts.

The case is In Re Electronic Privacy Information Center, 13-58.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday the relationship between Germany and the United States as well as the future of a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement have been “put to the test” by allegations of massive spying by the U.S. National Security Agency – including tapping her own phone.

“The allegations are grave. They have to be investigated and — even more important — for the future, new trust has to be rebuilt,” Merkel told Parliament at the beginning of a debate on U.S. spying in Germany.

However, Merkel tempered her criticism by declaring that Germany’s alliance with Washington “remains a fundamental guarantor for our freedom and our security.”

The need to maintain close ties with Washington while at the same time respond to public outrage over American spying has proven challenging for Merkel, who had sought to play down the allegations when they first surfaced last spring.

That changed, however, with media reports last month that Merkel’s own cellphone had been tapped by NSA operatives. The reports unleashed a firestorm of criticism in Germany, threatening one of America’s closest political relationships in Europe.