Over the past days the PRISM scandal has dominated the news. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald pushed out leak after leak, revealing how millions of people around the world are being monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The revelations turned online privacy into a worldwide mainstream discussion. Privacy activists shouted “we told you so,” Orwell quotes were rife, Kim Dotcom warmed up the public for his PRISM-proof email serviceand these was even some discussion over the stolen PRISM logo
Following the leaks the NSA and the US Government have been heavily criticized for their disregard of people’s privacy, and perhaps not totally unexpectedly this weekend the first legal action was filed.
TorrentFreak just obtained a copy of a complaint submitted at a federal court in Columbia, targeting President Obama, the NSA, Eric Holder and Verizon who all played a role in the mass surveillance scheme.
The class action lawsuit was filed by Larry Klayman, a former US prosecutor under the Reagan administration, together with the parents of the killed Navy SEAL Team VI member Michael Strange.
The plaintiffs accuse the PRISM participants of violating their constitutional rights, reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech and association, right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, among other illegal and criminal acts. Both Klayman and the Navy Seal parents demand compensation for the damage they suffered.
“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 telephonic communications,” the complaint reads.
While there are plenty of angles to pick, the class action centers around the classified order from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ordering Verizon to hand over all call details and metadata between the United States and abroad, without any oversight.
“This would give the NSA over one hundred millions phone records on a daily basis. The information would also include a list of all the people that Verizon customers call and who called them; how long they spoke; and perhaps, where they were on a given day.”
“Further, there is nothing in the order requiring the government to destroy the records after a certain amount of time nor is there any provisions limiting who can see and hear the data,” the complaint states.
The complaint goes on to state that those responsible for the PRISM scandal have done very little to explain what it entails. Instead, there are now calls to go after the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, to stop further leaks.
“To date, Defendants have not issued substantive and meaningful explanations to the American people describing what has occurred. To the contrary, criminal charges are reportedly being pursued by Defendants Obama, Holder, the DOJ, and the NSA against the leakers of this plot against American citizens in a further effort suppress, obstruct justice, and to keep Defendants’ illegal actions as secret as possible.”
Former US prosecutor Larry Klayman is a known critic of the Obama administration and believes that his private communications were tapped under the PRISM program. Charles and Mary Ann Strange, the parents of the killed Navy Seal Team VI member Michael Strange, allege the same as they have also challenged the Obama administration.
“[...] particularly since these Plaintiffs have been vocal about their criticism of President Obama as commander-in-chief, his administration, and the U.S. military regarding the circumstances surrounding the shoot down of their son’s helicopter in Afghanistan, which resulted in the death of their son and other Navy Seal Team VI members and special operation forces.”
The complaint demands relief for violations of the defendants’ rights under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. In addition it lists violations of privacy, including intrusion upon seclusion, freedom of expression and association, due process, and other illegal acts.
Thus far, authorities and the technology companies involved in the surveillance scandal have refuted most accusations, claiming that they are operating within the boundaries of the law. Time will tell whether the present lawsuit will arrive at another conclusion.