Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., talks to media outside the White House in Washington, an. 9, 2014

Sen. Rand Paul files 'class-action' suit against NSA surveillance

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 - 7:10 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 - 9:59 am

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Wednesday filed a 'class-action' lawsuit challenging a National Security Agency's surveillance program.

Visibly represented by former Virginia Attorney General, and failed gubernatorial candidate, Ken Cuccinelli, Paul filed his 18-page lawsuit at about 11 a.m. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The tea party types at FreedomWorks also joined the suit.

Paul's lawsuit is the latest to challenge NSA surveillance, but it's the first to be filed by a member of Congress. It also seeks to distinguish itself as a class-action lawsuit, on behalf of many U.S. residents. Ultimately, a judge will decide whether to certify the case as a class-action or not.

"We fought the American Revolution because we were unhappy about British soldiers writing generalized warrants," Paul stated at a courthouse news conference, adding that "we do this out of respect for the Constitution."

A potential 2016 presidential contender, Paul is also using the lawsuit to rally supporters via his website.

Cuccinelli, known for beating a quick path to the courthouse door, as when he sought to take credit as the first to legally challenge the Affordable Care Act, is described as lead counsel. 

Different courts have, to date, come to different conclusions about the NSA surveillance program that scoops up bulk telephone and e-mail data. One federal judge determined last December that the mass data collection was likely to be unconstitutional; another judge, in a different case, concluded otherwise.

The lawsuit names President Barack Obama and several top national security officials as defendants. The complaint seeks to have the class identified as all those U.S. residents who used a cell phone or landline since 2006

Members of Congress do not have a great track record in challenging executive actions in court. Among other hurdles, they must overcome the issue of standing, which includes demonstrating they have suffered actual harm. There is also a judicial predilection not to interfere with political matters to overcome.

In 2011, for instance, then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich and other lawmakers made a brief splash by suing Obama over what they called an "illegal war" against Libya. Four months later, the case was quietly dismissed.

Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that "we agree that the NSA's phone-records program is unconstitutional," while pointedly adding that "we've advanced these arguments in our own lawsuit against the NSA."


Read more articles by Michael Doyle

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