Supreme Court to Hear Electronic Surveillance Case

Heather Elliot, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law who studies the issue of constitutional standing, is closely watching the case.

"Standing asks the question, 'What's it to you?'" she says. "In the biggest picture, it prevents someone who is just a busy body from taking up the court's time. But the doctrine has become so hyper technical that it keeps out more than just busy bodies. Here, the burden is on the plaintiffs."

Richard Samp of the conservative Washington Legal Foundation has filed a brief in support of the government. He argues that allowing the case to proceed through discovery would threaten and interfere with the ability of the government to protect national security.

"The government," Samp says, "in order to demonstrate that the plaintiffs aren't suffering injury, would have to reveal in court how it goes about engaging in surveillance. That kind of information would be very helpful to terrorists who would try to avoid being the subject of surveillance."

"Courts aren't supposed to give advisory opinions," Samp adds. "The role of the courts is to decide real disputes and until someone can demonstrate a real injury this is nothing more than an academic dispute."

Siems disagrees.

"It's a huge moment for us," he says. "The question is: If we don't have standing, who does?"

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