Philly couple, activist lawyer file lawsuit over NSA collection of Verizon records

A Philadelphia couple and an activist attorney have filed a lawsuit over the NSA’s collection of Verizon customers' records.

  • The suit contends that the NSA's surveillance violates Verizon users' "reasonable expectation of privacy.’
  • Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville said in an email that the "case is without merit."

A Philadelphia couple and an activist attorney have filed a class-action lawsuit over the National Security Agency's collection of Verizon customers' records.

The suit, filed in federal court in D.C., contends that the NSA's surveillance violates Verizon users' "reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech and association, right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process rights."

The lawsuit was filed by activist lawyer Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch and a former federal prosecutor, and Charles and Mary Ann Strange. Charles Strange is the father of Navy SEAL Michael Strange, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2011.

The suit is the first to be filed after the Guardian disclosed last week that a secret court order required Verizon to hand over call data from millions of customers to the NSA.

"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," the lawsuit says.

In the suit, the Stranges claim their phone records have been accessed "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."

The defendants in the suit are President Barack Obama; the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder; the NSA and its director, Keith Alexander; Verizon and its chief executive, Lowell McAdam; and Roger Vinson, the judge who signed the secret order.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the suit. Verizon spokesman Raymond McConville, who said he was speaking only for Verizon, said in an email that the "case is without merit." 

The suit calls the order authorizing the collection of Verizon records "the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued." In a statement, Klayman said the "violations of free speech, prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure, and due process rights are unprecedented in American history."

The day after the surveillance of Verizon records came to light, the Washington Post and the Guardian reported on PRISM, a program in which intelligence agencies mined data from the servers of major Internet companies.

The suit was filed on Friday and became a class-action on Monday. The lawsuit says it believes its class includes more than 100 million people. The parties are seeking $3 billion in damages, a cease and desist order to prohibit the surveillance activity, the expungement of the phone records collected, more disclosure about the programs and for authorities to take up Vinson's alleged misconduct.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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