Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is going after the National Security Agency – in court this time.
“I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment,” Paul said in a statement Tuesday announcing his filing of a class-action lawsuit against the NSA. “The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants. I expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court and I predict the American people will win.”
Paul is teaming up with former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the conservative advocacy group Freedomworks in filing the suit against the NSA over its collection of phone records from American telecommunications companies. The program, which is carried out under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, collects the date, time, duration and phone numbers that are party to a call. There are several lawsuits challenging the program already pending in federal courts across the country.
Late last year, two judges in two seperate lawsuits split over the program’s constitutionality, with one judge upholding the program and the other saying it was likely unconstitutional. The scope of the NSA’s phone metadata collection program was first revealed by the leak of a secret foreign intelligence surveillance court order last June, which outlined the NSA’s request for all the phone records of a Verizon subsidiary. The court order was leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who is currently in temporary asylum in Russia. There are similar court orders in place for other telecommunications providers.
What distinguishes Paul’s suit from the other pending challenges is that it’s a class-action suit. In a class-action suit, the plaintiff seeks damages not only for themselves, but for anyone else who has been similarly affected by the wrong the suit seeks to address.
“A class action would be Rand Paul, not just suing on his own behalf, but on behalf all people, known and unknown, who are similarly situated,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University. “Ostensibly, he could be suing on behalf of all Americans, or all Americans hypothetically affected by these court orders.”
By making his challenge to the NSA’s metadata program a class-action suit, Paul is reiterating his point that the metadata program amounts to a “general warrant,” or the government giving itself permission to search any person at any time without individual suspicion or evidence of a crime, in violation of Americans’ constitutional rights.
“The question here is whether or not, constitutionally, you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people,” Paul told Fox News last month. “So we thought, What better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign up for a class action suit?”
Paul is scheduled to hold a press conference on the lawsuit Wednesday in Washington, D.C.