The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Former Justice attorney seeks $23 billion in damages for NSA surveillance programs

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eye-opener-logo6A former Reagan-era Justice Department prosecutor who runs a right-leaning political-advocacy group is suing the federal government over its controversial electronic-surveillance programs.

Activist attorney Larry Klayman filed two class-action lawsuits this week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking a combined $23 billion in damages.

Klayman, who founded the political advocacy group Freedom Watch, claims the National Security Administration surveillance programs that monitor phone data and Internet communications violate citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy, as well as their rights to free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Government dishonesty and tyranny against the people have reached historic proportion,” Klayman said in a statement. “The time has come for ‘We the People’ to rise up and reclaim control of our nation.”

Former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Joseph Snowden leaked details of the surveillance programs to the Washington Post and Guardian newspaper of Britain.

Klayman named the NSA, the Justice Deparment, President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and 12 communications and Internet companies as defendants in a class-action lawsuit he filed on Wednesday. In that case, he seeks $20 billion in damages, as well as orders to stop the surveillance programs and eliminate any records collected through them.

Earlier in the week, Klayman filed a separate lawsuit against Verizon and the Obama administration, requesting the same orders in addition to $3 billion in damages.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also threatened to file a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration for its surveillance programs.

“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said on “Fox News Sunday.” “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. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then somebody will wake up and say things will change in Washington.”

Obama has defended the NSA surveillance programs, saying the government does not collect information on individual callers or eavesdrop on Americans’ conversations without a warrant. Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the surveillance programs have thwarted dozens of terrorist plots.

Klayman, who describes himself as “the one man Tea Party” in his bio, is no stranger to lawsuits against the federal government. He filed at least 18 against the Clinton administration, according to a 1998 Washington Post article by David Segal.

Klayman authored the book “Whores: Why and How I Came to Fight the Establishment.” He also served as the basis for the character Harry Klaypool in the NBC series “West Wing,” according to his bio.

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