A lawyer from the group Freedom Watch has filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of
himself and a Philadelphia couple challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s recently revealed program involving the collection of Verizon customers’ phone records.
Larry Klayman, an activist attorney who founded the group Judicial Watch and now heads Freedom Watch, filed suit on June 7 at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over what he contends has been the “illegal seizure of phone records by the Obama administration’s National Security Agency.”
In addition to Klayman, the other named plaintiffs are Philadelphia residents Charles and Mary Ann Strange, who lost a son during fighting in the Middle East.
Three days after the case’s filing, Klayman petitioned the court to convert it into a class action on behalf of the Philadelphia couple and others similarly situated.
The defendants named in the complaint are President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the U.S. National Security Agency, NSA Director Keith B. Alexander, Verizon Communications, Verizon CEO Lowell C. McAdam, the U.S. Justice Department and Roger Vinson, who is identified as a judge on the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which is the judicial body responsible for issuing warrants in cases involving wiretapping.
Klayman, who formerly worked as a federal prosecutor, alleges a host of constitutional violations in the complaint, including expectation of privacy, free speech, right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process rights.
“This case challenges the legality of Defendants’ participation and conduct in a secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications,” the suit reads.
The NSA recently came under fire after reports surfaced that a secret court order was issued requiring Verizon to turn over call records from millions of its customers to the government agency, which deals in domestic security issues.
The complaint, which says that the affected class of plaintiffs could number more than 100 million, seeks $3 billion in damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief.
Klayman, the attorney and lead plaintiff, said in a statement on the Freedom Watch website that he has no doubt the “massive illegal seizure [of call data] had to be authorized and approved at the highest levels of the executive branch, which necessarily leads to the president, attorney general and director of the NSA.
“These violations of free speech, prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure, and due process rights are unprecedented in American history,” Klayman’s statement continues. “They make the fictional scenarios depicted in the literary works of George Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ and Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ look tame, particularly when coupled with other burgeoning government scandals concerning the IRS, the equally illegal seizure of phone records of Fox News and AP [Associated Press], and other abuses of power.”
Klayman said he included Vinson, the FISA Court judge, in the complaint because the courts are “no longer ‘independent’ such that they will protect American citizens from this tyranny.”
Klayman called Vinson’s actions “as despicable as those of Obama, Holder and Alexander.
“It is high time that judges are held accountable as well to the rule of law and the edicts of our constitution,” Klayman stated.
Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky with Libertarian leanings, has already voiced support for such litigation, stating as much on Fox News Sunday, and also during a recent visit to Philadelphia.
According to a Tuesday report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Paul, the son of Congressman Ron Paul, (R-Texas), spoke to reporters following his commencement speech at Boys’ Latin of Philadelphia Charter School about his support for litigation challenging both the NSA phone records collection program and the agency’s Internet surveillance program, which also recently came to light.
Paul was quoted in the Inquirer as saying he was seeking to have 10 million people sign a petition regarding his own potential suit, which he would like to get rolling at some point.
Klayman, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the class action, said in a statement that he applauds Paul for “effectively endorsing our lawsuit, and agree with him that it will serve as a vehicle to have tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of Americans rise up against government tyranny, which has grown to historic proportions.”
The Philadelphia couple named as lead plaintiffs in the class action, Charles and Mary Ann Strange, are the parents of Michael Strange, a member of Navy SEAL Team 6 who was killed when the helicopter in which he was riding was shot down by terrorists in Afghanistan on Aug. 6, 2011.
The lawsuit claims that the couple was targeted in the NSA phone records scandal because of their vocal criticism of President Obama, his administration, and the U.S. Military regarding the circumstances surrounding the attack on the helicopter that took their son’s life.
The couple, the suit says, have “substantial connections” with the nation’s capitol, since they often hold news conferences and lobby lawmakers and others in D.C. for justice on behalf of their deceased son.
In addition to the $3 billion, the class members seek a cease and desist order prohibiting the NSA from continuing its controversial phone records collection program.
The plaintiffs also seek to have the government return the phone records to Verizon, and have them expunged from federal government records.
According to its website, Freedom Watch is a political advocacy group that is dedicated to preserving freedom and protecting civil liberties.
The group’s website says that Klayman, its founder, obtained a court ruling that former President Bill Clinton committed a crime – perjury – while in office, the first lawyer ever to have secured such a court ruling against an American president.
Klayman is also credited as being the inspiration behind the Tea Party movement.
The federal case number is 1:13-cv-00851.