The furor that has erupted over PRISM -- the sweeping government surveillance program leaked to the public last week -- has now found its way into the courts. On Wednesday, a former prosecutor for the Justice Department filed a class action lawsuit against nine companies that have been identified as partners in the program.
PRISM, which burst into the spotlight after being unveiled by Booz Allen contractor Edward Snowden, allows the National Security Agency (NSA) to perform surveillance on communications and stored information transmitted via email, voice and video chat, and social networking.
The suit, filed by Larry Klayman, is being brought on behalf of plaintiffs Michael Ferrari and Matt Garrison -- both private investigators -- and Charles Strange, the father of a Navy SEAL who died in Afghanistan in 2011.
The complaint names as defendants AOL, Apple, AT&T, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Sprint, Yahoo! and YouTube. The complaint also targets the CEOs of AT&T and Sprint, as well as President Obama, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency (NSA), Attorney General Eric Holder, and NSA Director Keith Alexander.
“Rights are being surrendered”
"Defendants' willful acts constitute outrageous conduct insofar as they violated Plaintiffs' and Class members' basic democratic rights, constitutional rights, and exposed them to beyond an 'Orwellian regime of totalitarianism,'" the complaint says. "Plaintiffs' and Class members' rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence and other government agencies, as well as all of the Defendants."
Klayman hopes to ultimately join the suit with another on he filed on Monday. That suit focused on a top-secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over phone data to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis.”
ACLU also files suit
Klayman isn’t the only one using the courts to fight the program. On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit alleging that PRISM violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech and free association. That suit also names Holder and Alexander, as well as Defense Secretary Charles Hagel, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence.
And on Sunday, Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who made headlines in March with an impassioned filibuster focusing on the Obama Administration’s drone policy, told Fox News that he plans to file his own lawsuit over the program.
"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 told Fox. "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."
Both Klayman and the ACLU are seeking an end to the program, and Klayman’s suit also demands $20 billion in damages.