(L-R) Ken Cuccinelli II, Rand Paul, and Matt Kibbe outside the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. District Courthouse ()
Sen. Rand Paul (R- Ky.) is expected to file a lawsuit today challenging the federal government’s mass collection of phone records.
Paul appeared Wednesday morning at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to announce a new class action accusing the federal government of violating the Fourth Amendment rights of “everyone in America that has a phone” through the bulk collection of telephone call data.
“We will ask the question in court, whether a single warrant can apply to the records of every American phone user, all of the time, without limits, without individualization,” said Paul, who will serve as a lead plaintiff.
Paul was joined this morning by his attorney, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, and co-plaintiff Matt Kibbe, president and chief executive officer of conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks.
Paul said more than 300,000 people had already expressed interest in being part of the class. The senator had been soliciting potential class members through the website of his political action committee RAND PAC.
The proposed class includes Americans who used a cell or landline phone in the United States since 2006, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs want a judge to declare the mass collection of phone data unconstitutional and to order the government to stop collecting phone records and purge data that’s already been stored.
Paul’s lawsuit follows two similar cases in Washington and New York already moving through the federal appeals courts. Cuccinelli said he expected Paul’s case to be the first one certified as a class action.
Late last year, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon of the Washington federal trial court found the federal government’s bulk collection of phone data “almost certainly” violated privacy rights. Leon was the first judge to tackle the issue since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year leaked documents to reporters detailing the extent of the government’s surveillance efforts.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Leon said in his Dec. 16 decision.
The U.S. Department of Justice appealed Leon’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
In New York, U.S. District Judge William Pauley III in late December upheld the constitutionality of the bulk collection of phone records.
“The natural tension between protecting the nation and preserving civil liberty is squarely presented by the Government’s bulk telephony metadata collection program,” Pauley wrote. “While robust discussions are underway across the nation, in Congress, and at the White House, the question for this Court is whether the Government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This Court finds it is.”
The plaintiff in the New York case, the American Civil Liberties Union, asked the Second Circuit to review Pauley’s decision.
Unlike plaintiffs in the earlier cases, Cuccinelli said he and his clients would not ask the court for immediate relief in the form of a preliminary injunction. “We want to get to the merits on a permanent basis as rapidly as we can,” he said.
When asked about the plaintiffs’ standing to bring a lawsuit, Cuccinelli said that any person who uses a phone had been “injured by the gathering of this information in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Although Paul made statements expressing concerns about the government’s ability to potentially monitor other personal information that was digitally stored, such as credit card or health records, Cuccinelli said the lawsuit was limited to challenging the collection of telephone data.
“If you have used a phone in the last five years, this case is about protecting your rights,” he said.
The complaint lists Cuccinelli and lawyers from The Lewis Firm in Washington as counsel for the plaintiffs. Cuccinelli, whose term as attorney general ended earlier this year, has a law practice in Fairfax, Va., Cuccinelli & Associates.
Updated at 12:55 p.m.