The Circuit: Privacy group to challenge FISA order; House will examine FCC reform

Privacy group to ask Supreme Court to stop NSA program: The Electronic Privacy Information Center is planning to file a mandamus petition with the Supreme Court to stop phone data collection by the National Security Agency under the Patriot Act.

In an interview with the New York Times, EPIC executive director Marc Rotenberg said that the order is the first to challenge whether the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court has the jurisdiction to approve the NSA’s ability to collect data — specifically, whether it has the right to collect so much data and claim that it’s relevant to a particular, authorized investigation.

The group said that it is petitioning the Supreme Court to challenge the FISA court order because lower courts are not able to review FISA court decisions.

House committee schedules FCC reform hearing: The House subpanel on communications has scheduled a Thursday hearing to examine two bills by Republican lawmakers aimed at reforming the Federal Communications Commission. The bills suggest several provisions intended to clarify and streamline the agency’s jurisdiction, including having the agency conduct cost-benefit analyses of deals before regulating, codifying the FCC’s unofficial “shot clocks,” and consolidating some of the FCC’s annual reports into biennial reports.

The bills passed the House last year but did not gain much traction in the Democratic Senate. Witnesses will include former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, who resigned earlier this year.

U.S., telecom firms struck deals to ensure surveillance ability: Publicly available documents detailing deals struck between the U.S. government and telecommunications firms show the efforts officials have taken to ensure they are able to conduct surveillance through the fiber-optic networks that power much of the world’s voice and Internet traffic, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

The leverage for these negotiations, the report said, comes from the FCC’s authority to approve cable licenses. The full extent of the National Security Agency’s access to the cables, the report said, remains classified.

SoftBank downgraded to junk status after approval on Sprint: Japanese mobile carrier Softbank has been downgraded to junk status by Standard & Poor’s following last week’s announcement that the Federal Communications Commission had approved the firm’s proposed $21.6 billion bid to buy Sprint.

As Bloomberg reported, Standard & Poor’s said that Sprint Nextel is facing “intense competition” in the U.S. market and likely will face a similar landscape for the next two to three years.

Softbank announced Monday that it anticipates that the deal will be finished on Wednesday.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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