Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul announced Friday evening that he plans to lead a class action lawsuit against the government and the National Security Agency over its data collection programs.
Paul claimed on Fox News that since he started collecting signatures six months ago, hundreds of thousands of people have signed on. Paul wants to take his suit to the Supreme Court.
“The question here is whether or not, constitutionally, you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people,” Paul said of the suit. “So we thought, What better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign up for a class action suit?”
Because of the scope of the NSA’s activities, Paul added, “every person in America who has a cell phone would be eligible for this suit.”
“We now have several hundred thousand people who want to be part of this suit to say to the government and the NSA, ‘No, you can’t have our records without our permission or without a warrant specific to an individual.’”
Paul also said that former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who lost a gubernatorial bid last fall, has signed onto the suit’s legal team.
Paul’s announcement came the same day that the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court renewed the government’s authority to collect Americans’ telephone data for another 90 days.
Also on Friday, Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to the director of the National Security Agency asking if the NSA is or has ever spied on members of Congress or other elected officials.
“ ‘Spying’ would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business,” Sanders said in the letter.
The NSA responded to Sanders’ letter on Saturday in a statement to The Guardian, in which the agency did not deny gathering the communications of U.S. lawmakers. “Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all US persons,” the statement said.
“We are reviewing Senator Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all members of Congress, including Senator Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties,” the agency said, according to The Guardian’s report.
When asked by “Hannity” guest host Eric Bolling whether he thought he had been spied on, Sen. Paul said, “I don’t really think so, but I think the potential for the abuse exists.”
Both Sanders and Paul have introduced legilsation that would curtail the NSA’s powers.