Class action plaintiffs say NSA is spying on them

By Kyla Asbury | Feb 6, 2014

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - A class action lawsuit has been filed against the National Security Agency for allegedly conducting surveillance and intelligence-gathering programs that collected data from American citizens.

President Barack Obama; U.S. Attorney General Eric Himpton Holder Jr.; Keith B. Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency; Roger Vinson, a judge for the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence; John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency; James Comey, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the U.S. Department of Justice; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and the Central Intelligence Agency were also named as defendants in the suit.

Larry Klayman; Charles and Mary Ann Strange; Michael Ferrari; and Matt Garrison claim the NSA began a classified surveillance program to intercept the telephone communications of American citizens and on June 5, The Guardian reported the first of several "leaks" of classified material from Edward Snowden, a former NSA contract employee, according to a complaint filed Jan. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The leaks revealed, and continue to reveal, multiple U.S. government intelligence collection and surveillance programs, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim Vinson, acting in his official and personal capacities and under the authority of Obama, Holder, the FBI, the NSA and the DOJ, ordered that the Custodian of Records "shall produce the production of tangible things from Verizon Business Network Services Inc. on behalf of MCI Communication Services...to the NSA and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter."

The U.S. Government - on the orders of the president, the attorney general, the DOJ and the NSA -obtained a top secret court order that directs Verizon to turn over the telephone records of more than 100 million Americans to the NSA on an ongoing daily basis, according to the suit.

The plaintiffs claim Vinson ordered access to electronic copies of all call detail records or "telephony metadata" created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad.

Telephony metadata includes "comprehensive communications routing information, including but not limited to session identifying information (e.g. originating and terminating telephone number, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, International Mobile station Equipment Identity (IMEI) number, etc.) trunk identifier, telephone calling card numbers and time and duration of call," the complaint states.

The plaintiffs claim to date, the defendants have not issued substantive and meaningful explanations to the American people describing what has occurred.

"Rather, on information and belief, the NSA, under the authorization of President Obama, continues to engage in a systematic program of warrantless eavesdropping upon phone and email communications of hundreds of millions of individuals, including American citizens and permanent legal residents, both within and outside of the U.S.," according to the suit.

The NSA surveillance program collects not only the identities of people's communications with the targets of surveillance, but also the contents of those communications.

Such intrusive and illegal surveillance have directly impacted each and every plaintiff, according to the suit.

"The revelation that the government has been carrying on widespread warrantless interception of electronic communications has impaired plaintiffs' ability to communicate via telephone, email, and otherwise on the internet, out of fear that their confidential, private, and often privileged communications are being and will be overheard by the NSA's surveillance program."

The plaintiffs claim the risk and knowledge that the plaintiff's telephonic and internet conversations may be overheard, undoubtedly chills speech, in violation of the plaintiff's First Amendment rights.

The defendants violated the plaintiffs' First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights and caused them damages, according to the suit.

"PRISM" was an internal government computer system, authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It c0llected records from all communications companies, including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, AOL, Apple and PalTalk.

"PRISM" began after the passing of the Protect America Act in 2007.

The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest in an amount in excess of $20 billion. Klayman is representing himself and the rest of the class.

The case has been assigned to District Judge Richard J. Leon.

Klayman could not be reached for comment.

In the 1990s, Klayman was known for filing dozens of lawsuits against President Bill Clinton. He founded Judicial Watch and a government watchdog group called Freedom Watch. He has also brought legal action against former Vice President Dick Cheney, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia case number: 1:14-cv-00092

From Legal Newsline: Kyla Asbury can be reached at classactions@legalnewsline.com.

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