A senior staffer for Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) said the senator is more seriously considering a class-action lawsuit against the NSA after a ruling from a U.S. District Court judge gave standing to NSA opponents suing the agency over its bulk collection of phone records.
Paul suggested the idea of a lawsuit in June and asked people to volunteer online as possible plaintiffs; he received hundreds of thousands of sign-ups.
Incidentally, this also gave Paul a list of possible supporters for a 2016 run for the presidency.
Paul has not made a firm decision; he may instead join one of three lawsuits that have already been filed against the NSA. One is from the ACLU in New York, one is from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in San Francisco, there is one from conservative legal activist Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch in Washington, D.C.
It was Klayman’s case that elicited the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon in which Leon ruled that Klayman had standing to challenge the phone record collection. Leon also ruled that the 1979 case Smith v. Maryland used by the defense to bolster its argument could not justify the surveillance and that the NSA program probably transgressed against the Fourth Amendment. Klayman only solicited a few plaintiffs to join him; he wanted the “class” he represented to be comprised of all Americans affected by the NSA’s surveillance program. The NSA claimed the program foiled terrorist plots, but Leon held that they had not produced sufficient information to prove this.
Paul spokeswoman Eleanor May said, “As of now the senator is in the process of finding the best lawyer to file the [possible] suit [and] is still accepting more plaintiffs for the case.” Paul’s political action committee, RANDPAC, is featuring a pop-up ad soliciting ten million prospective plaintiffs to provide their names, email addresses, and ZIP codes. The ad requests “a generous donation to help rally up to ten million Americans to support my lawsuit to stop Big Brother.”
A senior staffer for Paul argued that Paul’s efforts to find a huge number of plaintiffs should solve the traditional problems of standing by which many anti-surveillance lawsuits are dismissed. The EFF and ACLU lawsuits represent comparatively few plaintiffs. The staffer contended that Paul’s suit would still have a meaningful impact even though Leon has already demolished the Justice Department’s legal argument and U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley of New York is deliberating over the injunction request from the ACLU.
Leon said the NSA’s collection was “almost Orwellian” and added “the government does not cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive.”
Paul delightedly pounced on the decision, saying, “I will continue to fight against the violations of Americans’ constitutional rights through illegal phone surveillance until it is stopped once and for all.”