Sen. Rand Paul Files Class Action Against NSA Metadata Collection - Technologist
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Sen. Rand Paul Files Class Action Against NSA Metadata Collection

This may be nothing more than a publicity stunt and a fundraising campaign, but it's at least a really, really fun one.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, along with Matt Kibbe, the CEO of FreedomWorks, announced yesterday, via a press release and an op-ed on CNN, that they would file a lawsuit against the Obama administration, seeking to end the National Security Agency's bulk cell phone metadata collection program. They are represented by anti-sodomy crusader and former Virginia Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Ken Cuccinelli.

What's This Lawsuit About?

Seriously? Have you been asleep for the past year?

Yesterday was "The Day We Fight Back," an anti-government surveillance movement. We recapped the NSA's numerous misdeeds, including the phone metadata collection program.

Basically, Sen. Paul wants to sue on behalf of every single American whose data is in the system. You can sign up for the class action lawsuit on his website. In his press release, he stated:

"I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the 4th Amendment. The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants. I expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court and I predict the American people will win."

Publicity Stunt?

The Verge blog makes a good point: the other two lawsuits, one which found the metadata program to be unconstitutional, and the other, which didn't, stand a much better chance of reaching the Supreme Court.

Paul et al.'s litigation sends a powerful message, however. And that message will become even more powerful if he recruits 10 million or so class-action plaintiffs. A losing battle in court can still be an effective political ploy.

Fundraiser?

The press release, and class action signup, are hosted on Rand's PAC page. The Verge notes that if you do sign up, you are immediately sent a thank-you note, along with a request for a donation.

Legal Merits

We'd be remiss not to mention that Supreme Court case where the Court held that a class action lawsuit against the NSA couldn't proceed on mere speculation that surveillance was occurring. Of course, that was all based on a lie. And now, we're all pretty darn sure that surveillance did occur and still is occurring.

It should be interesting to see how this proceeds. Cuccinelli's going to have his hands full with issues of Dukes commonality -- did all of the Internet-sourced plaintiffs suffer the same injury, or do you divide the class into multiple smaller classes, maybe one per cell phone provider. And then there are the rumors that cell phones, despite wide reports to the contrary, weren't even included in the program, reports The Wall Street Journal.

"And how will discovery work here? Is the NSA going to claim state secrets and clam up, as they did in that really embarrassing case from yesterday where an administrative error put a wheelchair-bound woman on a no-fly list?

Publicity stunt, fundraiser, or legitimate legal battle, this should be fun to watch.

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