NEW YORK – The attorney who won a high-profile federal court fight Monday with the National Security Agency over its invasive telephone-call spy program says he was put under surveillance – and more – by the agency when he filed the case.
Larry Klayman, a WND commentary contributor and founder of Judicial Watch and, more recently, FreedomWatch, told WND that once his allegations that the federal government was violating the Constitution with its “watch-every-call” strategy hit the courts, he noticed problems with his email.
“People began receiving from me emails that I had never sent,” Klayman told WND, suggesting harassment in response to his work. “The government just wanted me to know they were watching me.”
Klayman filed the action on behalf of several plaintiffs, seeking first a preliminary injunction to prevent the federal government from damaging Americans further. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted the injunction Monday but also issued a stay, anticipating an immediate appeal from the federal government.
Judge Leon wrote: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval.”
The preliminary injunction does not require the judge to make a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of the NSA spy program, however, it lets both sides in the case know his leanings.
The Justice Department, in previous cases mostly before the specialized Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, argued that the information collected about the timing and length of calls, the numbers called and other details did not amount to a “search.”
Leon disagreed with that argument, because it was based on a three-decade-old precedent.
“The ubiquity of phones has dramatically altered the quantity of information that is now available and, more importantly, what that information can tell the government about people’s lives. I cannot possibly navigate these uncharted Fourth Amendment waters using as my North Star a case that predates the rise of cell phones.”
The case was launched after the extent of government spying on Americans was unveiled by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who said the court’s decision made him feel justified in releasing classified documents about the program.
Klayman said the next step will be to obtain security clearances, so he can further investigate the government program as well as grill government officials about the secrets they obtained about hundreds of millions of Americans.
“The judge today let the government know there would be serious consequences if the NSA continues to violate the rights of 300 million Americans,” Klayman told WND. “This was just the first case, against Verizon. I have cases filed in federal court against all the telephone providers involved with the NSA in telephone surveillance in the USA.”
Klayman said the case is “potentially one of the biggest legal cases against the government ever.”
He also said he’ll seek a ruling turning the preliminary injunction into a permanent restraining order.
“The ruling by Judge Leon sets a very high bar if the government wants to continue NSA electronic surveillance of U.S. telephone conversations until the government has a chance to appeal,” Klayman said. “The judge made it clear that the NSA activities were suspect under the Fourth Amendment, would not be well received and could result in additional damages.”
Klayman brought the case on behalf of Charles Strange, the father of Michael Strange, a cryptologist technician for the NSA and a support personnel member of Navy SEAL Team 6.
Michael Strange was killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011.
Charles Strange, as a subscriber of Verizon Wireless, brought the case against the NSA, Department of Justice and several U.S. officials, including President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.
The complaint alleges the government, with the participation of private telephone companies, has been conducting “a secret and illegal government scheme to intercept and analyze vast quantities of domestic telephonic communications.”
“The government, in its understandable zeal to protect our homeland, has crafted a counterterrorism program with respect to telephone metadata that strikes the balance based in large part on a 34-year-old Supreme Court precedent, the relevance of which has been eclipsed by technological advances and a cell phone-centric lifestyle heretofore inconceivable,” Judge Leon wrote.
Department of Justice officials said they are reviewing the court’s ruling.
Judge Leon admitted at an earlier hearing that his word probably would not be the last on the case against the NSA’s PRISM program, which the federal bureaucracy claims is essential to national security.
Damages in the billions of dollars are being sought.
Klayman said previously that Charles and Mary Anne Strange received emails from him that he never sent and even a text message from their dead son. Klayman suggested at the time that the NSA was communicating to him that it could do whatever it wants.
As WND reported, the administration claims the data collected is limited to records of phone calls and email and not the content of the transmissions. But Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said he was “startled” to learn in a secret congressional briefing how NSA analysts can decide for themselves whether to access the content of a domestic phone call.
“If low-level personnel are using PRISM in this way, one can only imagine what high-level political appointees and supervisors are doing and are capable of doing on behalf of the Obama administration,” Klayman told WND.
Among the critics of NSA actions is Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who authored the Patriot Act. He argues the law does not give the NSA authority to collect the phone records of all Americans and is sponsoring legislation to ban it.
Klayman said earlier it’s “unbelievable that the American people are now living a horror story like this.”
“Even George Orwell could not have envisioned this outrage, with hundreds of millions of Americans being spied on, and coerced into submission by a tyrannical government,” he said.
“If this had been 1776, our Founding Fathers, being considered subversives by King George III, would have never made it to Philadelphia to debate and sign the Declaration of Independence. Their communications would have been intercepted, and they would have been arrested and executed on the spot.”
Several other legal challenges to NSA spying also are pending, including a demand by the American Civil Liberties Union for the NSA to stop its phone-record collection.
The case is being heard in New York.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center also is pursuing action over the collection of phone records and has gone directly to the U.S. Supreme Court with its request for intervention.