U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., one of the leading voices of the libertarian movement, said Sunday he may sue the federal government over the National Security Agency’s newly revealed surveillance program known as PRISM. Paul appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the possibility of a Supreme Court challenge.
“I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level,” Paul said. “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 maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”
Paul’s announcement comes less than a week after an NSA whistle-blower named Edward Snowden revealed two large-scale, top-secret NSA surveillance programs. First, Snowden leaked news to the Guardian and the Washington Post that the NSA is collecting the phone records of millions of Americans who are customers of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ). Then, Snowden leaked news of PRISM, a top-secret surveillance program with direct access to the servers of tech giants such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) and the Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT). Snowden remained anonymous until Sunday, when the Guardian and the Washington Post publicly revealed his name and background with his consent.
On “Fox News Sunday,” Paul said he disagrees with Obama administration statements that the recently disclosed NSA efforts constitute a “modest” invasion of privacy. He said he has no problem with government agencies using similar methods if they have a warrant on a specific person. However, the NSA surveillance programs are designed specifically to bypass using a warrant.
“That doesn’t look like a modest invasion of privacy,” Paul said. “I have no problem if you have probable cause … but we’re talking about trolling through a billion phone records a day.”
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Paul said most young Internet users are behind his plan to challenge the NSA programs. Based on receptive comments about his lawsuit on Reddit and the many Twitter user remarks in support of Snowden, Paul may be right on that front.
“The Founding Fathers didn’t want that,” Paul said. “I think the American people are with me. Young people who use computers are with me.”