February 12th, 2014
12:54 PM ET
5 months ago

Rand Paul announces suit against Obama administration over NSA

Updated 7:39 p.m. ET, 2/12/2014

(CNN) – Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday he’s suing President Barack Obama and top national security officials over the government’s sweeping electronic surveillance program made public by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The Kentucky Republican and the conservative group FreedomWorks are filing a class-action challenge against the government’s phone metadata collection effort, which stores the numbers and call times of phone calls.

"I think that we will be heard and I think that we have a very strong argument," Paul, a potential presidential contender in 2016, said on CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront on Wednesday.

He acknowledged that the generally large composition of the class could complicate the case.

"But we didn't define the class," he said. "This is defined by the arrogance of government that has decided that the Fourth Amendment really allows a warrant to be written for everybody's phone records. It shows the enormity and the egregiousness of the government's intrusion."

The suit also names National Intelligence Director James Clapper, outgoing NSA Director Keith Alexander, and FBI Director James Comey.

Read the suit

"We don't do this out of disrespect to anyone," Paul said earlier Wednesday at a news conference in Washington. "We do this out of respect to the Constitution and out of belief that these decisions cannot be made in secret by a secret court but that they need to be made in open by the Supreme Court."

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs and class members want a declaration that bulk metadata collection is unconstitutional, an end to it, and an order to purge stored data that’s related to plaintiffs and class members.

"Americans do not like to think of their government as some Orwellian leviathan, engaging in surveillance tactics that we only expect to see in oppressive autocracies," Paul writes in an opinion piece for CNN.com. "That such surveillance could be going on in what is ostensibly the freest nation in the world is a chilling thought indeed."

A firebrand in the Republican Party whose brand of conservatism embraces Libertarian ideals, Paul is an ardent critic of U.S. surveillance programs, which he says infringe on basic civil liberties under the Constitution.

"I think there really is a question of privacy here, protecting privacy," Paul told CNN.

"I would say that this example of this being 300 million people being affected really illustrates the problem that we have a generalized warrant, not a specific warrant."

Ken Cuccinelli, a former Republican attorney general in Virginia who lost the state’s gubernatorial election last November, is serving as lead counsel. Cuccinelli predicted the lawsuit will pan out over several years.

“When the Supreme Court finally rules on these questions, Americans' Fourth Amendment rights will be vindicated and we will prevail,” he said.

Snowden’s leaks to the media last year about NSA collection of telephone and e-mail data outraged Libertarians, privacy advocates and many members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.
They considered it government overreach in the fight against terrorism.

Opinion: Stop the NSA while we still can

Americans nationwide are split on the issue. A Quinnipiac University survey from last month indicated that 48% of registered voters support the metadata program, compared to 47% who oppose the data collection. Five percent said they're unsure or have no opinion.

Obama has defended the programs, but announced modest reforms to NSA's practices last month. While access to the metadata will be tightened and possibly shifted from the NSA to elsewhere, the collection and storage of the metadata will still continue.

“As we've said previously we believe the program as it exists is lawful,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Wednesday in a statement to CNN. “Indeed, it has been found to be lawful by multiple courts. And it receives oversight from all three branches of government, including the Congress.”

In Obama’s speech at the Justice Department last month, the President revealed new guidance for intelligence-gathering as well as changes intended to balance what he called the nation's vital security needs with concerns over privacy and civil liberties.

Paul joins a number of anti-NSA activists who are unsatisfied with the proposed changes.
CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said there are many procedural problems with the kind of suit brought by Paul.

On CNN's Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, Toobin said that “you have to prove that you were injured” and the government is likely to argue that neither Paul nor any of the other plaintiffs can prove that was the case or that even their calls were monitored.

But Toobin argued the underlying issue about whether the program is constitutional or not "is certainly a real one."

Cuccinelli disagreed with Toobin.

"If you use a phone–and both my clients do–then they are injured by the gathering of this information," he said at the press conference.

"Standing is not my greatest legal concern here," he continued. "It is getting to the merits and winning on the merits."

CNN's Jake Tapper and Alison Harding contributed to this report.


Filed under: Ken Cuccinelli • NSA • Rand Paul
soundoff (102 Responses)
  1. Chris-E...al

    Breaking news ! Rand Paul is to honest to be Prez .And makes t0 much cents. He knows he want make a Prez.! But he kn0ws he can bring attention to our Y0URS rights being trampled 0n ! little by little day by day we are loseing what our f0lks have died for.just keep bashing this great hero. he can take it from you to. thank you

    February 12, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  2. Ah...I see...

    We were told to support our President. We were told to accept the Patriot Act because a little freedom is worth our security. Years passed and now those who asked us to support our President demand murder or impeachment. Years passed and now that we've learned segments of what was in the Patriot Act, we learn it was a terrible law and yet it is the inheritance from the previous administration. While it is this Presidents to own now, he didn't pass it and is trying to reform it per the People's requests. We were already told to accept the Patriot Act. I think it's only fair if we follow through and support our President now too.

    February 12, 2014 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  3. TooSlick83

    I thought Rand Paul was a Libertarian?! Doesn't he know that if people are that upset with how their phone usage is being collected that the market will correct itself?! Market correction ALWAYS happens and works and no government interference is needed!

    February 12, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  4. Stuffitu

    This corrupt president should be spending all of his time in court trying to keep out of jail. Nixon turned me in to a democrat, this crook has pulled me so far right, I don't think I can ever go back.

    February 12, 2014 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Thomas

    Rand PAul looks like the Kinda guy who looks in the mirror and tells himself he's Lovely !

    Maybe he could file a suit on himself for being so ridiculously incompetent .

    February 12, 2014 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  6. The REAL Truth...

    @Winstorn Smith – We will never stop. We will never tire. We will crush you Progs if it takes a thousand years.
    --------------------------
    and based on the candidates put forth by the opposition over the last 10 yrs.. that's about how long it will take. And then there's Doc Paul's useless suit.

    February 12, 2014 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  7. Silence DoGood

    @felix
    No one opposing Rand Paul in these comments is offering any substance. Only personal, childish attacks.

    The 4th amendment is worth protecting – even for all you dolts who oppose the law suit, and don't even realize that it's you, too, who are under threat from the govt.
    ---------–
    I mentioned at least one item and have seen a few specific criticisms. And you might be confusing, in my case, hyperbole with childish. Sorry I usually put up a hyperbole alert for folks just like you.

    "under threat from the govt." I felt much more under threat from the government under Bush. With terrorist attacks they were warned about, and deadly war based on lies, and an unresponsive FEMA, it was pretty darn scary under the cowboy. At least Obama goes and gets the bad guys.

    February 12, 2014 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  8. Ronald Fuselier

    To save country:
    Put these criminals on trial:
    Barack Obama the crackhead
    George Bush the cokehead
    Bill Clinton the rapist
    Joe Biden the retard
    Dick Cheney the war criminal
    Al Gore the scam artist

    February 12, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  9. Rand Paul Sr.

    Rudy.Come see me .I have a treatment f0r that kind 0f confusion ..and fence jumping symtoms.?

    February 12, 2014 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  10. RWB1956

    Paranoia will destroy ya!

    February 12, 2014 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    The only person that could be sued would be the person who started it, because when I came on vacation to America about 30 years ago, a couple now deceased told me to be careful with my phone calls as there was this program

    February 12, 2014 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. Silence DoGood

    @TooSlick83
    I thought Rand Paul was a Libertarian?! Doesn't he know that if people are that upset with how their phone usage is being collected that the market will correct itself?! Market correction ALWAYS happens and works and no government interference is needed!
    ---------–
    That is like when Bush stole the election by completely blowing off States Rights by running to the federal Government to overturn Florida law. Conservative morality is flexible like putty. Free market, States right on the placards, but anything goes when they want to power grab.

    February 12, 2014 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    The only person that could be sued would be the person who started it, because when I came on vacation to America about 30 years ago, a couple now deceased told me to be careful with my phone calls as there was this program

    February 12, 2014 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  14. RDM

    I don't know why some brainwashed progressives are out to cause damage to a man who see's the problems that this Marxist government has created. We need some backbone and Rand Paul is out to tackle the problems. If you enjoy the control Obama has put into force then you are a big part of the problem. I would prefer Rand Paul over the mess we have in a second.

    February 12, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  15. Brett

    You libs would be fighting tooth and nail if this was Bush and the Patriot Act. But now that Obama has decided to expand the program, it's just a silly suit. Be honest with yourselves. Rand is not your typical Republican and would never go along with clear violation of rights. He stands against the abuses of Democrats as well as Republicans. He has stood up for Democrat ideals that many of you supposedly cherish. If you people weren't so stupid, you would realize that Democrats and Republicans are almost one and the same.

    February 12, 2014 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    This is nothing more than a publicity stunt from Paul-lite. Anyone that thinks that Rand Paul is this lonely, John the Baptist-type figure who is doing this solely out of a sense of service to the country, and NOT as a means of raising his profile at a time when Christie is tanking is utterly naive. If he thought he could raise his profile by demanding a commision in the SEALS he would do it.

    February 12, 2014 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    -Stuffitu

    This corrupt president should be spending all of his time in court trying to keep out of jail. Nixon turned me in to a democrat, this crook has pulled me so far right, I don't think I can ever go back.
    *************
    Hand on, there is a Volksturm unit mustering in your area.

    February 12, 2014 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    Stuffitu - Even if your fairytale has any credence, if you went flailing off to the 'right' because of all the success Obama has been for this country, don't even BOTHER trying to come back. Who needs you. You're dumber than a rusty shovel.

    February 12, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. Rudy NYC

    tom l wrote:

    "On another note, how can you possibly not support this action? I know for sure you are against the Patriot Act. "

    "Fair! Please have some fun and read Rudy's comments in the other Rand Paul story."
    ------------------------–
    How can you possibly assume that believing Paul's law suit is a publicity stunt equates to being FOR the Patriot Act?

    I suggest that you stop making a complete fool out of yourself and re-read the article, tom.

    February 12, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  20. Civilgeek

    I love how progressives find this ok by citing that it was bush\Repubs who passed the Patriot Act. However, if you are handed a Bazooka it doesn't mean you are required to fire it at will at the American People. Blame is squarely on the Administration for how they have chosen to use the tool called the Patriot Act.

    February 12, 2014 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    One pertinent question: where was this lawsuit from Paul and his ilk when the dolt-in-chief Bush was in office? The same, if not MORE, privacy invasions were in effect and being BRAGGED about back then.......

    What's that smell, did an uber-partisan Teatard just mess his pants?

    February 12, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  22. Silence DoGood

    @Winstorn Smith – We will never stop. We will never tire. We will crush you Progs if it takes a thousand years.
    -------------
    So if you are anti-progressive, what does that make you? Antonyms I found included: atavistic, throwback(prenominal)
    retrograde, retrogressive, returning, reverting, unmodernized.
    No thanks – I like being progressive.
    And you may want to support someone who uses the Law in a proper way. Paul is just mocking our legal system and confusing his gullible followers as to how the law works.

    February 12, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  23. Mikey

    I was and still am not a big fan of the Patriot act, but I recognize there is a conflict between personal freedom and safety. To all you Obama bashers out there: If he did not use all the tools at his disposal as enacted into law by Congress and there was a sucessful attack on the U.S., would you be screaming about how terrible it was for him not to have done all he could? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! Now if we back off on our security measures, are those who are pushing for it going to take some responsibility if we are attacked? Will Randy Paul take responsibility? I suspect not. This lawsuit is a case of a pathetic little snivelling whiner tugging at the heals of greatness.

    February 12, 2014 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  24. tom l

    How sad of you to pretend that Randroid's silence on the subject would only be relevant if he's in Congress. Show me his public commentary prior to being in Congress and his activism against Dubya's behavior and he'll get a pass...but I don't happen to recall any.
    =====

    Really? Realllllllyyyy?? That's how you're going to rationalize away the fact that you should be 100% in favor of this but your political leanings won't let you side with someone because they aren't on your team. Wow. You say you're not a democrat yet merely due to the fact he has an R next to his name you won't support something you obviously believe in demonstrates your lack of any ability to be objective.

    As far as his stance before he was in Congress, I think it's gonna be tough to find quotes from him as the son of a congressman and just a private citizen. I would think that his father's position on the Patriot Act would allow you to be able to acknowledge that he is 100% consistent but you want to play games to cover yourself. Why would even argue what you know is absolutely true? You know he has always been against the Patriot Act and this is wholly consistent. It has nothing to do with who is in office.

    February 12, 2014 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. deee510

    rand just wants air time.he made a complete donkey of himself attacking bill Clinton when bill isn't even running for office.he has nothing to offer so he's just keeping his name in the media by attacking high profile democrats.

    February 12, 2014 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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