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
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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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