Online Staff Report
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and a libertarian group, have asked a federal court to block the National Security Agency’s (NSA) collection of telephone data and to purge what has been collected and stored by the agency since 2006.
“On behalf of myself, FreedomWorks and everyone in America that has a phone, we’re filing suit against the president of the United States in defense of the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said in front of a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12.
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe added, “We think the government has overstepped its bounds.”
Paul, who has said he may consider running for president in 2016, said the class-action lawsuit he and FreedomWorks filed may involve as many as 300 million to 400 million Americans.
Defendants in the suit are President Barack Obama, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey.
In their suit, Paul and FreedomWorks are asking the court to determine whether a single warrant is enough to empower the federal government to conduct mass surveillance against phone users. Experts have suggested a key legal hurdle may be for Paul and FreedomWorks to prove they have been harmed in some way by the NSA’s surveillance program.
In his comments Feb. 12, Paul said he was not taking legal action “out of disrespect to anyone; we do this out of respect for the Constitution.”
Justice Department Spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement, “We remain confident that the program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found.”
In January, the Obama administration announced a series of reforms to government surveillance programs.
Caitlin Hayden, spokesman for Obama’s National Security Council, said, “We believe that all of these reforms taken together help chart a path forward that should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, while preserving important tools that keep us safe, and addressing concerns that have been raised overseas.”
Paul noted in his lawsuit that members of the congressionally created Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and concluded last month that the telephone record collection program was illegal and should be shut down.
Posted Feb. 12, 2014