A Tale of Two Lawsuits

In the wake of the most recent revelations about NSA data mining, two groups have filed lawsuits against the federal government. One is the ACLU. The other is Freedom Watch, which is Larry Klayman with a P.O. Box. The ACLU is thinking strategically in their case:

The suit filed Tuesday argues that the phone tracking system detailed in The Guardian violates freedom of speech and privacy rights, with the ACLU arguing on its own behalf as a Verizon customer. The group wants the National Security Agency’s surveillance program stopped, and for all its records to be purged.

The case is aimed at the Supreme Court, where it would pose a challenge to a 1979 ruling that found no expectation of privacy when sharing information with a third party, and build on some of the doubts the court expressed in 2012 about that decision’s relevance in the current technological era.

“If this [NSA phone surveillance] came up to the Supreme Court with this Supreme Court, they would declare it unconstitutional,” Laura W. Murphy, the director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office, said Thursday at an event hosted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who is considering signing on to the group’s suit…

And based strictly on existing Supreme Court case law, says George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr, the group’s arguments are “weak.”

But even skeptics of the ACLU’s chances concede the potential for progress. Snowden’s leaks may not lead to a wholesale dismantling of the NSA’s dragnet surveillance efforts — but the revelations could force the high court to reevaluate its interpretations of privacy law.

And this time around, says Kerr, “the ACLU’s goal is probably to get discovery” — to force the government to declassify more information about the programs — “not to win.”

KLayman’s two cases (one against PRISM and one against the Verizon data mining program) ask for more than $20 billion in damages. And I’m sure they’ll be up to Klayman’s usual standards for quality, which means they’ll be full of political boilerplate and invective rather than sound legal arguments. Maybe he can get one of his citizen grand juries to hear issue more useless “indictments.”

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  • slc1

    The ACLU’s chances of prevailing on this law suit are slim and none and slim is already on the bus headed out of town. I suspect that the government will fight discovery tooth and nail and will likely postpone any final decision on that issue until after Obama leaves office, at which time he will no longer give a shit.

  • What’s a True Patriot like Rand Paul doing consorting with a pinko commie group of atheist Muslims like the ACLU?

  • some bastard on the net

    Even if he wins both suits, I wonder how Larry will prove he lost $20 Billion due to NSA surveillance.

    Isn’t it required that someone has to, you know, have that much money in the first place? Or at least a reasonable expectation that, sans the action they’re suing over, they would have that much money or something of equitable value?

    Ed, I think you can retire Larry’s title as “The dumbest lawyer in America not named Mat Staver or Orly Taitz,” because I think he just dug right through the bottom of the barrel.

  • brucegee1962

    There are a host, a raft, a continent of issues where I disagree with Rand Paul. But still, it’s necessary to give credit where it’s due, and he seems to deserve full marks for consistency. He really does seem to be against Big Government in all of its myriad forms — unlike liberals who (correctly, by my lights, but still) are for it when it provides services but against its surveillance state aspects, or the rest of the conservatives who flip flop wildly on surveillance and every other issue based on who’s doing it. And you’ve got to admire that filibuster of his against the drones.

    So…often wrong, but still, an apparently honest politician. Perhaps the best we’re likely to get from Kentucky? At least he isn’t marching in lock step. The best I can say is, on my list of Senators I’d like to see unemployed, he’s certainly not in the top third.

  • troll

    @4, I see no inconsistency in your description of the liberal viewpoint. If one sees government itself as a service to the people, then big government services and a shackled surveillance state are perfectly complementary.

  • trucreep

    @2 not very helpful..I mean I get it but I feel like this NSA shit transcends partisan bullshit.

    I agree with Orin Kerr on this – he’s a very intelligent guy that’s able to separate the politics from the legality of things

  • raven

    So…often wrong, but still, an apparently honest politician.


    A blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.

    Rand Paul is a typical christofascist loon and a totalitarian. Ed’s post yesterday had him claiming that xians in the USA are being persecuted by “liberals”.

    Inasmuch as the USA is 72% xian and most “liberals”, meaning normal people are xians, it is a flat out lie.

  • raven

    Rand Paul from yesterdays EB post:

    There’s a war on Christianity, not only by the liberal elites here at home but worldwide.”

    The “liberal elites” in the USA, according to Rand Paul are at war with xianity.

    We all know what he means by the liberal elite war on xianity. It means a lot of people are trying to keep the fundie death cultists aka “his base” from overthrowing the US government, setting up a theocracy, and heading on back to the Dark Ages.

    It’s not honest at all. It’s lies from a demogogue pandering to primitive tribalists.

  • Robert B.

    At least they can’t quibble about standing this time…

    Go ACLU!

  • coffeehound

    He really does seem to be against Big Government in all of its myriad forms

    Except when discussing abortion; so,no.

  • @6: I was just appreciating the irony of Randy getting help from the same “liberal elites” he was crying about persecuting him and other Christians a few days ago.

  • timberwoof

    For. Fuck’s. Sake.

    The US position during the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s was that spying on citizens the way the Soviet Union and East Germany did was illegal and immoral and against Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Now they’re doing it even more efficiently than the KGB and Stasi ever hoped to.

  • naturalcynic

    KLayman’s two cases (one against PRISM and one against the Verizon data mining program) ask for more than $20 billion in damages.

    Why doesn’t he try to reeeeeully get them and sue for $20 MILLION.