You are here: HomeU.S. NewsConstitutionSen. Rand Paul Files Suit Against NSA, Obama Administration
Thursday, 13 February 2014 15:21

Sen. Rand Paul Files Suit Against NSA, Obama Administration

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As he has promised for months, Senator Rand Paul (shown, R-Ky.) has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration, challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s dragnet collection of metadata.

In a press conference held Wednesday, the libertarian-leaning freshman senator announced that he was teaming with FreedomWorks and former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli in pursuing this “historic” lawsuit.

“There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records are being taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant and without individualization,” Paul said, standing outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In a statement made in a video defending the Fourth Amendment, Paul declares, "Our Founders never intended for Americans to trust their government."

Paul’s purpose in the lawsuit is to demonstrate that principle by holding the NSA and the rest of the intelligence community accountable for the constitutionality of their activities.

“I’m not against the NSA, I’m not against spying, I’m not against looking at phone records,” Paul said. “I just want you to go to a judge, have an individual’s name and a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says.”

In an interview with Politico, Paul indicated he believed there is no wiggle room when it comes to adhering to the standards set out in the Constitution regarding the process for searching and seizing information from citizens.

“Whether you breach the Fourth Amendment 20 percent of the time or 100 percent of the time, it’s still not the point,” he said. “The point is whether or not you still collect millions of people’s information with a single warrant.”

During an appearance on Fox News Sunday in June of last year, Paul announced plans to file a class action lawsuit against the Obama administration, demanding it provide legal justification for the recently revealed wholesale watching of millions of citizens not suspected of any crime.

“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said, according to the show transcript. "I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies, ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying, 'We don’t want our phone records looked at,' then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington," he added.

When asked by host Chris Wallace why he considered the NSA’s surveillance unconstitutional, Paul responded:

Well, you know, they're looking at a billion phone calls a day is what I read in the press and that doesn't sound to me like a modest invasion of privacy. It sounds like an extraordinary invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment says you can look at and ask for a warrant specific to a person, place and the items.

This is a general warrant. This is what we objected to and what our Founding Fathers partly fought the revolution over is they did not want generalized warrants where you could go from house to house with soldiers looking for things or now from computer to computer, to phone to phone, without specifying who you're targeting.

Specifically, the Fourth Amendment states that the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

While unapologetically spying on millions of Americans, the federal government makes no attempt to demonstrate that any of those whose phone records have been seized are suspected of committing some crime. It is a plain and simple violation of the Fourth Amendment in the hope of discovering something that one day might be found to qualify as suspicious. That is putting the cart of culpability before the horse of the Constitution, and the American people are right to insist that the president be held accountable.

As Senator Paul explained to Chris Wallace, “What I do in my private life is my private life. If you suspect me of a crime, have probable cause.”

How far are the citizens of this Republic willing to let the federal surveillance apparatus go toward constructing a Panopticon? At this accelerated rate of construction, how long until every call, every text, every e-mail, every online message, and every movement will fall under the all-seeing eye of federal overlords?

Senator Paul thinks now is the time to derail this “long train of abuses” and he believes that the American people have the will and the way to do so. Citing the successful defeat of a pair of recent legislative attempts to pierce the veil of Internet privacy, Paul thinks that those events prove that popular resistance can provide a pathway toward ending the NSA’s snooping, as well.

The bills referred to by Paul are the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Both acts were defeated in Congress, although many of their provisions were enacted as part of other bills or through executive orders.

Speaking of the popular uprising that led to the defeat of these measures, Paul told Wallace, “If we can have that again — people by the millions coming out and saying, 'Look, I want to be part of a class action suit that says to the government, let's hear this at the Supreme Court level. Are you allowed to look at phone records even though there's no probable cause that I'm related to a crime?' — I think we'll put an end to this.”

The Justice Department sees things differently, of course.

In a statement published by Politico, a Justice Department spokesman said, “We remain confident that the Section 215 telephone metadata program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found.”

Although he’s been promoting the idea since late last year, perhaps Senator Paul chose to file the suit now in light of recent favorable court rulings.

In December, for example, a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s dragnet collection of information on all phone calls likely violates the Constitution. In a 68-page Memorandum Opinion issued on December 16, Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the NSA’s unwarranted surveillance of telephone calls is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The suit that was the subject of Leon’s ruling was filed by Larry Klayman, the founder of Freedom Watch. In a statement published by WND, Klayman reached out to the senator-turned-plaintiff, welcoming him to the fray.

“I invite Sen. Paul to join our ongoing class actions, as they have already proven to be successful in large part — given Judge Leon’s unconstitutionality ruling. The other plaintiffs and I are pleased that Paul also is fighting to slay the NSA express,” Klayman wrote.

Donations to help pay the legal expenses associated with pursuing Senator Paul’s complaint are being collected at defendthefourth.com and constitutiondefensefund.com, a website managed by FreedomWorks.

“Any money donated through the petition page on www.ConstitutionDefenseFund.com will be going towards the legal costs of this suit,” FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jacqueline Bodnar said, as reported by Politico. “We expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court, so it’s going to be expensive.”

While Senator Paul’s efforts are to be commended, the federal judiciary is not empowered in the Constitution to be the arbiter of what is or is not constitutional. 

Furthermore, the Supreme Court has demonstrated repeatedly that it cannot be relied upon to rein in the other branches of the federal government.

The best answer to the NSA’s wholesale violations of the Fourth Amendment is state and local actions refusing to cooperate with the organization’s surveillance activities, whether through bills nullifying federal acts permitting the programs or through measures cutting off vital utilities from NSA facilities.

Senator Paul's lawsuit names President Obama, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, NSA director Keith Alexander, and FBI director James Comey as co-defendants.

Photo of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announcing his lawsuit Feb. 12: AP Images

 

Joe A. Wolverton, II, J.D. is a correspondent for The New American and travels nationwide speaking on nullification, the Second Amendment, the surveillance state, and other constitutional issues. Follow him on Twitter @TNAJoeWolverton and he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

6 comments

  • Comment Link Heidi Preston Saturday, 15 February 2014 01:00 posted by Heidi Preston

    Bill sponsored by Senator David L. Williams

    Resolution 134
    February 17 2011 - to State & Local Government (S)

    Summary
    Urge Congress to call an Article V convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States requiring a balanced federal budget.

    The bill tries to cover it self by a disclaimer under section 2- "This resolution is revoked and withdrawn, nullified, and superseded to the same effect as if it had never been passed, and retroactive to the purpose of calling a convention or used in support of conducting or convening to amend the Constitution of the United States for any purpose other than requiring a balanced federal budget pursuant to this call, which may or may not include (8) Or (9) of section 1 of this Resolution."

    I think this is a bad idea for two reasons. One we have so much credit that we will never have a balanced budget all we can do now is stop the spending which you do not need a constitutional convention or an amendment for. Second once you allow the "interpretation of this new provision made legal through legislation, it open the door to a lot of darkness made legal. We already have clandestine agencies within the government that do and spend and behave in a manner that is not accountable. This is a very bad idea no matter how you look at it. No thank you Senator Williams and Senator Paul.

    We need the NSA and it's covert actions just as long as they are in accordance with the Constitution which is what Rand Paul said. Just my opinion.

  • Comment Link Keith Coltharp Friday, 14 February 2014 09:27 posted by Keith Coltharp

    @ Nora, 02/13/14. It's more than for "monetary reasons", or the "blackmailing of politicians". NSA's core purpose and ultimate goal, is to acquire total control over every U.S. citizen and over every aspect of our society. Without unlimited access to every aspect of our lives, the New World Order cannot be achieved. That is also why the government is so "hell bent" in wanting to take away our 2nd Amendment rights as well.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Friday, 14 February 2014 09:18 posted by MemphisMickey

    Nora, when you signed up for a cell phone, you gave away your rights to the data, it is the Phone company's data and property. Ugh.

  • Comment Link MemphisMickey Friday, 14 February 2014 09:16 posted by MemphisMickey

    can we file suit against Rand for supporting a Constitutional Convention?

  • Comment Link Nora Thursday, 13 February 2014 22:57 posted by Nora

    Unlike Rand Paul, I am against the NSA, spying and looking at private data that should remain private, because that is a constitutionally protected right.

    I think he is very naive if he thinks this invasion of our privacy has anything to do with national security, or is justified in any way. The meta data is sold for a profit--I didn't give them permission to sell mine, did you give them permission to sell yours? It's application is definitely for monetary reasons, or worse--in many cases used to blackmail politicians and file criminal charges against anyone they can catch in their dragnet. The information the NSA collects is a whole lot more than we are led to believe and used for completely different purposes, so why are we going to let them continue to commit this crime? Sign on to Rand Paul's law suit as a party plaintiff and stand up for your right to be free from unreasonable search as outlined in the Fourth Amendment.

  • Comment Link Old Mullet Thursday, 13 February 2014 21:42 posted by Old Mullet

    The second to last paragraph from Mr. Wolverton brings up a good point. "The best answer....is state and local actions...." Hoorah ! ! ! Now take a look at how long this problem has been planned and implemented with NO states or LOCAL actions being taken. At what point in time does American wake up from the dream of "let the other guy do it" and realize that to "the other guy", YOU are "the other guy". The old use term of "buck" (as in stopping here) meant; bull, b.s., procrastination, abuse, and others. That still applies but is flung around (no pun intended) like so much defecation but with no specific target. It smells bad but doesn't account for much. Sen. Paul stands out (bless him) for all Americans who want our Republic to recover for us and our future Americans. Socialism and Communism are tapping at the door, don't let them have our home.

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