Lawsuit filed over NSA phone spying program

Complaint charges President Obama, NSA director and Verizon CEO with privacy violations

A former federal prosecutor and the parents of a Navy SEAL member killed in action in Afghanistan have filed a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, Verizon, the National Security Agency (NSA) and others over the NSA domestic spying operation disclosed by The Guardian last week.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday, charges Obama and the others of violating constitutionally protected privacy rights and rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

"This is an action for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution," the 24-page complaint said. "This is also an action for violations of privacy, including intrusion upon, seclusion, freedom of expression and association, due process, and other illegal acts."

The lawsuit seeks $3 billion in compensatory and actual damages from the government and a cessation of the NSA spying program. The three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and a former prosecutor, and Charles and Mary Strange, the parents of Michael Strange, a Navy SEAL who was killed when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters.

The complaint describes Klayman as a Verizon customer and public advocate who has been "highly critical" of the Obama administration and has filed multiple lawsuits against him in the past. Others named as defendants include U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, NSA Director Keith Alexander and Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam.

The lawsuit is the first of what could be other similar complaints stemming from The Guardian's recent publication of a secret court order that requires Verizon to provide the NSA with daily records of all calls made by all Verizon customers since at least April. A similar report from The Washington Post a day later described another secret program called PRISM, under which the NSA and the FBI are allegedly intercepting data directly from servers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other Internet companies.

The revelations have sparked widespread concern over dragnet-style domestic surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies. While Obama and members of his administration have justified the programs as necessary to combat terrorism, privacy and civil rights advocates have blasted them as overreaching.

Others have already hinted that they might file class-action lawsuits against the federal government, too. On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was considering a lawsuit against the administration over the surveillance program. Paul was quoted as saying that he would ask millions of customers of all major phone companies and Internet service providers to join the lawsuit. In Michigan, Republican Rep. Justin Amash announced on Facebook that he's working with other lawmakers on a potential lawsuit against the FBI and the NSA over the secret data collection.

Last Saturday, Edward Snowden, 29, a Booz Allen Hamilton employee working as a contractor for the NSA, revealed that he was the source of the leaked documents. Snowden is currently in hiding in Hong Kong and has said he would seek refuge in Iceland or any other country that would be willing to harbor him.

This article, Lawsuit filed over NSA phone spying program, was originally published at

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at  @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His e-mail address is

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