United States Senator Rand Paul announced his intention to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration over the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records.
In an interview Friday evening, the Republican senator from Kentucky said he had spent the better part of six months collecting signatures in support of the suit with the hopes that it will achieve class action status.
“It’s kind of an unusual class-action suit,” Paul told FOX News. “We think everybody in America who has a cell phone would be eligible for this class-action suit.”
In June, reports by The Guardian and the New York Times made known the existence of a secret court order demanding Verizon hand over telephone records of every subscriber to the government. Those logs contained “telephone metadata” of every phone call made by every Verizon customer over a given period of time.
The secret order was one of several thousand documents distributed to journalists by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Though other NSA surveillance programs have been made public because of Snowden’s action, the bulk collection of phone records has been the focal point of much public debate for various reasons, notably that the telephone logs collected are that of American phone subscribers, not foreigners.
Over the past few weeks, federal judges have given conflicting opinions regarding the constitutionality of the bulk collection program. Last week, a federal judge in New York ruled in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union that the bulk collection was legal under Section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act.
U.S. District Judge William Pauley dismissed the lawsuit against NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, saying there was no evidence that the NSA was engaging in deviant use of the records they gathered, as the ACLU had warned was possible.
Two weeks earlier, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon opined in a separate lawsuit that the program likely violated the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, banning “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Leon wrote in his opinion.
Senator Paul apparently agrees.
“We want them (the courts) to protect the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said. “We want them to protect the right to privacy. We think we can have security, that we can defend against terrorism, but that doesn’t mean that every single American has to give up their privacy.”
Paul announced on Friday that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli was on board. With Cuccinelli’s help, Paul hopes to get a court hearing on the matter.