Class-action filing follows ruling against spy-on-Americans program.
A new class-action claim against President Obama and the National Security Agency’s spying on Americans could end up with 100 million or more plaintiffs, according to lawyer Larry Klayman, who earlier won a judgment in federal court that the NSA program likely is unconstitutional.
Klayman filed the new claim this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in an effort to speed up court proceedings.
Klayman, founder of FreedomWatch, is fighting the NSA’s telephone-call tracking program in federal court in Washington, where a judge ruled the government’s actions are “almost Orwellian.”
He announced late Thursday that the new case was filed to streamline work on the earlier cases, which are pending before Judge Richard J. Leon.
Klayman has filed a petition for review that would allow the cases to leapfrog intermediate courts and go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the massive and indiscriminate collection of data by the federal government violates the Fourth Amendment.
Klayman explained that plaintiffs removed the class-action demand in the earlier cases and dropped the Verizon defendants, with the right to add them later, to move the cases more quickly to the discovery phase.
The original cases are now simplified to speed up the litigation, while the new class action can potentially involve millions of Americans as plaintiffs.
The filing explains that the class “is so numerous that the individual joinder of all members, in this or any action is impracticable. The exact number or identification of class members is presently unknown to plaintiffs, but it is believed that the class numbers over a hundred million citizens.”
“The ongoing outrageous violation of constitutional rights should be adjudicated as fully and swiftly as possible, while allowing all aggrieved citizens to bring suit. The government defendants, including the president, must be held accountable and these violations of constitutional rights must be brought to an end. As for Verizon and the other cell phone and Internet providers who claim that they have no liability as they were acting under orders of the FISC or Justice Department, discovery in the on-going cases will test whether this is true. If not, they will be added to the cases at a later date.”
Obama held a news conference recently to announce he wants to enable the NSA to continue reviewing telephone-call metadata “when we need” but to no longer hold the information.
In response, Klayman charged the president was “spewing smoke … to make himself look good.”
“If you believe he was serious about investigating the IRS, investigating Benghazi, telling the truth about Obamacare … then you can believe what he said today. He doesn’t mean it,” Klayman told WND.
Obama said he wants to have intelligence agencies get permission from a secret court before using the telephone data. He also said he wants to cut back on eavesdropping on the leaders of foreign allies, which has ignited a diplomatic firestorm.
But Obama stood behind the NSA’s activities, calling them necessary for national security. He failed, however, to address several recommendations from a review panel that looked at surveillance issues. The panel recommended that the NSA “not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken or make vulnerable” commercial software and that it discontinue exploiting flaws in software.
Klayman has urged the district court to move forward quickly on the dispute, citing an earlier warning from the court itself.
The court said: “We work 24/7 around this courthouse, my friend. 24/7. I don’t want to hear anything about vacations, weddings, days off. Forget about it. This is a case at the pinnacle of public national interest, pinnacle. All hands 24/7. No excuses. You got a team of lawyers; Mr. Klayman is alone apparently. You have litigated cases in this courthouse when it is matters of this consequence and enormity. You know how this court operates.”
The new case lists Klayman, Charles and Mary Ann Strange, Michael Ferrari and Matt Garrison as plaintiffs. Defendants include Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, NSA chief Keith Alexander, Roger Vinson of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, National Intelligence Director James Clapper, CIA chief John Brennan, FBI Director James Comey, the NSA, the Department of Justice and the CIA.
It alleges the government’s spy programs are collecting records “of all communications companies including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint.”
“Moreover, the government has acknowledged that it is collecting’ metadata’ about every phone call made or received by residents of the United States, and these records provide intricate details, including the identity of the individual who was spoken to, the length of time of the conversation, and where the conversation too place,” the new claim explains.
“It gives the government a comprehensive record of an individual’s associations, speech, and public movements while revealing personal details about an individual’s familial, political, professional, religious, and intimate associations.”
It alleges the defendants have set up procedures to obtain “the communication records of over 100 million U.S. citizens … regardless of whether there is reasonable suspicion or any ‘probable cause’ of any wrongdoing.”
Washington’s “schemes” have “subjected untold number of innocent people to the constant surveillance of government agents” and have not been stopped.
“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 of warrantless eavesdropping upon phone and email communications of hundreds of millions of individuals.”
Klayman also charged he was put under surveillance by the agency when he filed the case.
Klayman, a WND commentary contributor and founder of Judicial Watch and, more recently, FreedomWatch, told WND that once his allegations that the federal government was violating the Constitution with its “watch-every-call” strategy hit the courts, he noticed problems with his email.
“People began receiving from me emails that I had never sent,” Klayman told WND at the time, suggesting harassment in response to his work. “The government just wanted me to know they were watching me.”
Klayman brought the case on behalf of Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange, a cryptologist technician for the NSA and a support personnel member of Navy SEAL Team 6.
Michael Strange was killed in Afghanistan in 2011 when his helicopter was shot down.
Charles Strange, as a subscriber of Verizon Wireless, brought the original case against the NSA, Department of Justice and several U.S. officials, including President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The complaint alleged the government, with the participation of private telephone companies, has been conducting “a secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications.”