Rand Paul Sues Obama on Behalf of ‘Hundreds of Millions’

The Kentucky senator’s class-action suit charges the government’s domestic-spying program with violating the Fourth Amendment.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) holds up a group of cell phones in front of U.S. District Court to announce the filing of a class action lawsuit against the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander and FBI Director James Comey.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Feb. 12, 2014, 7 a.m.

Sen. Rand Paul of­fi­cially sued the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion Wed­nes­day, on grounds that the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s do­mest­ic-spy­ing pro­grams vi­ol­ate the Fourth Amend­ment’s pro­tec­tions of U.S. cit­izens.

The class-ac­tion suit has been signed by 186,000 people, but that re­flects a small frac­tion of Amer­ic­ans po­ten­tially eli­gible, Paul said.

“This law­suit could con­ceiv­ably rep­res­ent hun­dreds of mil­lions of people who have phone lines or cell phones,” Paul said in front of the court­house shortly after fil­ing his suit. “We don’t do this out of dis­respect for any­one but out of re­spect for the Con­sti­tu­tion.”

Paul filed his law­suit in fed­er­al Dis­trict Court in D.C., nam­ing Pres­id­ent Obama, Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per, NSA chief Keith Al­ex­an­der, and FBI head James Comey as de­fend­ants.

Paul said he is not op­posed to the NSA or spy­ing in gen­er­al, but to the use of sur­veil­lance activ­it­ies he be­lieves are war­rant­less. “I just want you to go to a judge, have a per­son’s name, and in­di­vidu­al­ize the war­rant,” he said, adding, “That’s what the Fourth Amend­ment says.”

The sen­at­or from Ken­tucky had long threatened to file a suit against Obama and oth­ers for what he be­lieves are un­con­sti­tu­tion­al over­reaches by the gov­ern­ment’s sur­veil­lance ap­par­at­us. He col­lec­ted sig­na­tures for the suit through his Rand­PAC web­site, a ploy that some de­tract­ors have de­rided as a clev­er phish­ing scheme to build up a sub­scriber base for fu­ture polit­ic­al cam­paigns.

Sev­er­al suits have already been filed in fed­er­al court chal­len­ging the NSA’s bulk-tele­phone-data pro­gram, which is au­thor­ized un­der Sec­tion 215 of the USA Pat­ri­ot Act and col­lects the date, dur­a­tion, and num­bers of a call but not its con­tent. But Paul’s class-ac­tion chal­lenge os­tens­ibly claims that any­one whose phone data is col­lec­ted in the NSA’s sweeps is an in­jured plaintiff.

Des­pite skep­ti­cism that his claim rests on shaky leg­al foot­ing, Paul said he ex­pects the case will ul­ti­mately earn a re­view and a vic­tory from the Su­preme Court. It seeks im­me­di­ate re­lief that would halt the NSA’s phone pro­gram and elim­in­ate the re­cords the agency has col­lec­ted dur­ing the past five years.

Paul’s lead coun­sel for the case is former Vir­gin­ia At­tor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Cuc­cinelli, who lost a bid for gov­ernor last year to Demo­crat Terry McAul­iffe. 

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