On Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Surveillance Law on a 5-to-4 split, a federal law that authorizes intercepting international communications involving Americans.
According to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court rejected this case because the journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates who challenged the law could not show that they had been harmed by it and so they lacking standing to sue. Alito stated that mere “fear they would be subject to surveillance in the future” was simply way too speculative to establish a case.
Did those who challenged the law ever get harmed by it? No. Was their privacy every threatened? No. But should the Supreme Court have turned down the case? No.
The reality of it is that the Supreme Court receives applications for thousands and thousands of cases each year and they cannot take all of them. That said, the Surveillance Law analyzes a fundamental constitutional debate on privacy between citizens and the federal government, and it is a law that affects every citizen.
Regardless of the fact that those who challenged its constitutionality did not have a reason to sue, they brought an interesting relationship – one between the citizens and federal government – to the surface.
The truth is that no one might ever be harmed by this law. That the United States will never imprison, harm, or watch over someone who is communicating internationally. However, it is the mere idea that the federal government can do this that makes this case a very important constitutional debate.
My goal is not to say whether or not the Surveillance Law is constitutional. It is also to not point out the benefits and problems with its provisions. But it is to point out that the Supreme Court should accept such cases that affect each and every member of the country regardless of the fact that those suing were not affected by it. It is important that the justices deal with issues about such critical principles rather than delay discussing them.