AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and Youtube will be named in the suit, attorney says
By STEVEN NELSON
Attorney Larry Klayman hopes to turn up the legal heat on President Barack Obama over his administration’s secret domestic surveillance programs.
Former Justice Department prosecutor Larry Klayman amended an existing lawsuit against Verizon and a slew of Obama administration officials Monday to make it the first class-action lawsuit in response to the publication of a secret court order instructing Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of American customers on an “ongoing, daily basis.”
Klayman told U.S. News he will file a second class-action lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia targeting government officials and each of the nine companies listed in a leaked National Security Agency slideshow as participants in the government’s PRISM program.
According to the slideshow, the PRISM program allows government agents direct, real-time access to the servers of nine major tech companies, including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube.
U.S. News did not seek comment from the companies, all of which have denied any knowledge of or participation in the PRISM program.
Klayman said he hopes the two lawsuits will be considered jointly as companion cases.
The class-action lawsuit against Verizon says the defendants violated customers’ “reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech and association, right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures and due process rights.”
“This case challenges the legality of Defendants’ participation and conduct in a secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephone communications,” says the lawsuit against Verizon, which also names as defendants President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, NSA director Keith Alexander and federal judge Roger Vinson, the FISA court judge who approved the leaked April order.
Klayman told U.S. News the Verizon lawsuit will be served to the named defendants. “Either they will file an answer or move to dismiss” the complaint, Klayman said, “[but] we’re confident the case will proceed.”
Within a few months, Klayman said, the court will likely define the “class” the suit seeks to represent by ruling that “everyone’s in” or by allowing Verizon customers to either opt-in or out-out of the class. Currently the suit only represents a Pennsylvania couple.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said during a Sunday appearance on Fox News that he intends to file a class-action lawsuit against Verizon and the Internet companies over the surveillance programs, but it’s unclear how exactly he will proceed with the plans.
“I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” Paul said Sunday. “If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”
Paul “effectively endorsed our case,” Klayman said, speculating that the senator “must have known about it.” Although a copy of the Verizon lawsuit was sent to Paul’s office, the attorney said he received no response. Klayman founded the pro-transparency legal group Judicial Watch in 1994 and currently leads an organization called Freedom Watch.
Documents exposing the Verizon phone-record collection order – which Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said was a routine reauthorization of a seven-year-old practice – and the NSA’s PRISM program were handed over to the Guardian and Washington Post by former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden. He traveled to Hong Kong before leaking the documents and voluntarily revealed his identity Sunday.
The phone-records lawsuit: