back to article Rand Paul launches class-action lawsuit to end NSA phone spying

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has filed a lawsuit against President Obama and three top national security officials, seeking an end to what the suit describes as the US government's "mass, suspicionless, non-particularized" collection of data on US residents' phone calls. "The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general …

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  1. ThomH Silver badge

    This action is likely to be very successful

    ... in helping Rand to secure his front-runner status for the 2016 nomination, especially with Christie's Bridgegate woes. You know, if the first name isn't enough.

  2. Don Jefe

    Lonely Hearings

    I guess it's cool enough that he's actually suing over the NSA fiasco, but he knows it won't go anywhere. Actually, that's probably the reason he filed the suit. It's a safe move and makes him look interested in the issue.

    The four flat tires on any lawsuit related to the mass surveillance by the NSA, or other classified activities were gone over in great detail last year. The Congresspeople can only read the laws and statutes related to the matter in a little room off to the side and there are tons of restrictions.

    You've got to go in alone, can't take photos or bring anything electronic in there, occasionally you can take notes, but they are taken for review before you get them back. You have to know exactly what documents you want to look at and how long you want to analyze them.

    Besides, it's illegal for them to disclose any of that info to anyone else. So there's no pointing even bothering with a hearing. Everybody will have to leave the room when he's talking or showing illustrations. Hell, he couldn't tell you what the verdict on his suit turned out to be. It's so stupid.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      I have to say, that sounds pretty unconstitutional to me.

      But the solution is probably not in a lawsuit.

      I think the solution is in changing the law.

      And nothing should be allowed to be kept secret in a Congressional Hearing. Congress is the manifestation of The People. Nobody has the right to blindfold The People.

      1. Don Jefe

        Nobody should have the right to blindfold The People. That's doubly true when those doing the blindfolding are representational of The People. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way.

        The Constitution gives Congress the authority to slice, dice, spindle, fold, tear and mutilate information relating to National Security issues any way they see fit. I suppose it is more accurate to say the Constitution gives Congress the authority to form internal working groups as and those groups can determine how best to make the information available.

        While those groups can't prohibit a Congressperson from accessing the information, they can, and do, remove most any benefit from that access. The Dept of Justice is almost completely made up of lawyers specializing in Constitutional Law and it takes them months, sometimes years and thousands of man hours to create a synopsis that connects simple statements from various pieces of legislation together. Expecting a Congressperson to be able to do that, alone, with zero resources and access to one document at a time is just a waste of time and everybody knows it.

        Tying in to the above, you have to know what to documents to ask for, but you can't know unless you're on (Committee) as no one outside that committee has clearance to what's in the documents. You just have to guess. Non committee Congresspeople can't even see what they're voting on. They have to take the Committees word that (law) is OK.

        What they're doing isn't right, but it has been done that way since before Presidents were having their photographs made. It didn't actually take long after declaring victory over Britain for them to all get together and use their Constitutionally granted authority to skew the system. It's one of the few things that all the primary political parties since the early 19th century agree on.

  3. chrisp1141

    Google worse than NSA

    Why is it that everyone has a problem with the NSA, but they don't seem to have a problem with Google? Google violates your privacy by scanning your calendar, posts, files, email, etc., and by tracking your browsing history. Plus they keep track of all of your search results and build profiles about you. This is just as extensive (if not more) than what the NSA does. Everyone who cares about privacy should check out some of the new privacy-based services that have started to pop up: Ravetree, HushMail, DuckDuckGo, etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google worse than NSA

      If I don't use any Google service, then Google cannot create a profile and view what I do. By using the services of Google I am granting them right to use that data. How does that compare to what the NSA does by intercepting traffic or getting a mass warrant for all records? Where did I grant the NSA the right to monitor what I am doing? I am not using any NSA service. With Google I can opt out of using their services.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google worse than NSA

        That's right, AC. When one signs up with Google, they tick a box that says Google computers can build a profile on the individual and then target that individual with advertisements.

        If one does not like Google, there's Hushmail(?), Hotmail(?), Yahoo! mail and a plethora of others, but don't think for one minute that their Terms of Service will be any different to Google's.

        I'm in Australia. Yet I know the NSA have data on me due to a call I placed to Arizona yesterday, the week before that, and on many other occasions. I've never been to their site. I've never signed up for any NSA service. I just wanna kill every single mother fucking NSA employee, except former ones that turn whistleblower! :D

        No. Seriously. I'm mad at all this snooping! It's illegal. Stop it now!!

        1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

          Re: Google worse than NSA

          Unfortunately it's not illegal.

          And your government is probably complicit in the capturing and sharing of personal data as well.

      2. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

        Re: Google worse than NSA

        @AC: "If I don't use any Google service, then Google cannot create a profile and view what I do."

        This is repeated so often that I feel compelled to repeat (with a lame pun that is not actually intended but will probably be noticed): Yes, they can!

        You send emails to people and/or companies that use Google services. You visit websites that may use Google services. You may exchange information - documents, files, what not - with organizations that use Google services. Google can create a profile for you without you ever signing their ToS. Your problem is that other people use Google.

        Think of them as a contractor for every CCTV camera everywhere. You are not a customer of theirs but your municipality and your local businesses are, so if you walk along a street or enter a shop or a bank they will have it on tape.

        The difference lies in what they can do with the information they gather. Google cannot (yet?) infringe on your freedoms and rights to the same extent as a government can. In my mind, this does not mean that everything Google currently do should be allowed, and there is a strong potential for abuse beyond intentions.

        I'd say, intuitively, that laws limiting the lifetime of stored information would be a big step in the right direction (including phone companies' datasets going back dozens of years, not just Google). Including destroying backups save for historically relevant information. Historically relevant information should be specifically created as such (think books or articles or specifically designated archives such as civil registers), accidentally collected metadata do not qualify. "The right to be forgotten," if you will.

        1. VinceH

          Re: Google worse than NSA

          "You send emails to people and/or companies that use Google services. You visit websites that may use Google services. You may exchange information - documents, files, what not - with organizations that use Google services. Google can create a profile for you without you ever signing their ToS. Your problem is that other people use Google."

          Emails, granted. Even if I'm sending an email to JoeBloggs@JoeBloggsDomain, I can't be sure that my email won't end up in Joe's Gmail inbox.

          Visiting sites that use Google? Google has limited scope here through sensible cookie management, and script blocking. At best they could track IP addresses, but given that I may be on one of a number of IP addresses, and those IP addresses are also used by others, that's not very useful.

          The only files/documents I exchange with organisations are their files/documents.

          Other than that, Google is able to index things I say in public on the intertubes in their search stuff - such as my comments here. But that's stuff I say in public!

          1. Don Jefe

            Re: Google worse than NSA

            I think the big reason most people don't compare Google to the NSA is that search engine and advertising companies have a great track record of not disappearing people.

            Try it! Go to www.bing.com and search for something. Do it a bunch, just to be sure. I've got plenty to do in the meantime, but wait as long as you feel necessary and you'll find that neither your family, your friends, coworkers or yourself have been spirited away. You won't be audited by tax people or have all your money disappear from the bank (by Google anyway) and your fathers cover as a grocer won't suddenly, after 40 years, be blown and we find out he's been spying on your government all that time. Your home won't instantly become the only area in 30 blocks whose school zone is 90 blocks away and your uncle (probably, hopefully certainly) won't be found to be running a child porn studio in his basement and you'll never have to endure the stupidly long queues for meals at Freedom Resort and Spa in lovely Guantanamo Bay.

            If you use Bing you might not get the results you were looking for. I mean, yeah, that sucks and all, but it's not nearly as crappy as the stupid water rides at Freedom Resort. I guess it's also possible you might see some adverts that are in no way relevant to you.

            Now try that with the NSA. They're 30-40 mins up the road from me. You can crash at my place the night before you go over. That way you can sleep on not cinder blocks and I'll even let you wear real shoes at my house. That's a big deal too, as when you've done your taunt the NSA ritual by claiming to be a competitor you will be lucky if you get to breathe anymore.

            Yes, Google is invasive, but not dangerous. I also agree they'll need to be reined in one day. But reining in a commercial enterprise and a government intelligence agency requires a completely different toolset. If you try to mix the solutions you'll never get traction on either effort. Gotta keep them separated man. Got to.

            1. tom dial Silver badge

              Re: Google worse than NSA (@Don Jefe)

              With all due respect, I think this is well over the top. Please provide references to identify those "disappeared" or even prosecuted as a byproduct of NSA programs. It is one thing to be alarmed at the prospect that these federal government activities could be used maliciously in oppressive ways and quite another to suggest that they have been or even are likely to be. It appears to me that for nearly everyone there is much greater actual danger from local police, with sticks and guns, or from local and federal prosecutors with subpoenas and warrants, than the NSA. And the risk of financial loss to which the post alludes certainly appears, in the light of recent grabs from Target and others, to come much more from criminal hackers.

              I do not claim that what my government is doing through the NSA and other intelligence agencies is a good thing, but that its actual significance is being overstated relative to a large number of other risks.

    2. Shannon Jacobs
      Holmes

      All your attentions is belongs to the google

      That's google's excuse for abuse. What was that old slogan about EVIL again? ROFLMAO.

      Anyway, on this article, if it wasn't a cheap political game then he would have included some neo-GOP defendants such as the big dick Cheney and the big don Rumsfeld. I can see forgetting about the little Dubya, since he was only liable in the peculiar technical sense, while not actually knowing or caring about anything. I agree that Obama should be sued, but NOT without the actual instigators. This has become a bipartisan crime, but suddenly the Bible has been updated so the world was created in 2009.

      Remember, Rand Paul is supposed to be one of the most principled neo-GOP politicians. So much for principles, eh? Just more proof that today's neo-GOP is NO relation to the original liberal and progressive Republican Party of Abe Lincoln or even the GOP of Ike and Teddy. Talk about your dead brand.

    3. Old Handle

      Re: Google worse than NSA

      Also google doesn't murder people with drones based on the data they collect (as far as we know).

      1. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Google worse than NSA

        Mixing agencies, here. NSA may supply information leading to drone targets, although it probably is not the only source of such information. Drones are sent, sometimes based on direct instruction of the President, by either military forces or the CIA.

        The problem, to the extent there is one, goes much beyond the NSA to encompass a significant part of the executive branch; and in various ways the congress is seriously implicated as well. The question to ask here might be "would anything be much different tomorrow if the NSA were shut down and all of the data it has collected were destroyed at Midnight tonight?"

        1. Don Jefe

          Re: Google worse than NSA

          As far as I know the US government (my government) hasn't disappeared any US Citizens, but they've certainly grabbed plenty of people from other nations. Some end up in Guantanamo, some in Eastern Europe, and some don't end up anywhere. They're just gone.

          I don't think my government is all bad and I don't think they're attempting to control people through spying on them (that's too much work). At the same time, the US government has always done some terribly awful, atrociously nasty things. Disappearing people is something they've been doing since the late 18th century. The entire 'extraordinary rendition' fiasco has had information written about it for 13 years now, much of it isn't politicized, it looks at the issue from a policy perspective. You should look into it. After that, swing through South America and look into the US sponsored dictatorships.

          The US kept a steady supply of CIA interrogation specialists and 'insurrection management specialists' for decades. Huge sums of cash and weapons were sent as well, and most of it disguised as USAID humanitarian supplies (which, alone, is a horrible thing to do. Argentina, Uruguay and Chile to this day don't trust shipments of anything from the US). Depending on your views, it is either good or too bad that most of the CIA guys were abandoned by our government and dealt with accordingly by the people they had been torturing for years and years.

          I'm fairly certain you aren't hopelessly stupid, but you're taking a view of the US that absolutely no place in the world shares except the US. Our government has never, ever, zero times, played by its own rules. It would behoove you to learn about some of those things and adjust your attitude accordingly. As it stands you are dangerously uninformed.

          1. tom dial Silver badge

            Re: Google worse than NSA

            So you load (in the earlier post) all badness on the NSA when, as we in fact agree that the problem is much more complex.

            I am less ignorant of U. S. history than you appear to think, but do not think the U. S. government has, operating internationally, behaved a great deal differently - either better or worse - from the average major power. That certainly includes a sizable share of the bad, and of the stupidly bad, nearly all of them initiated or sanctioned by our elected legislators and carried out more or less enthusiastically by the executive branch. And that was my point in a slightly later post: the NSA is not THE problem, nor is the CIA or FBI or any other executive branch agency.

            The real problem is in the laws and policies that established these agencies and govern their operation. As shocking as they were to many, the documents Edward Snowden released, and the additional ones later declassified, indicate that, in the main, the NSA operated within its charter, reported on itself when it identified errors and abuse internally, and when chastised by the FISC on occasion for exceeding the limits of the laws and executive orders, they modified their programs in response. The documents also show that, allowing for 40 years of technology change, NSA operates now in nearly the same way it did before FISA enactment in 1978. They do not show an out of control agency that is making things up as it goes along. The situation with the CIA probably is similar: we know for sure that the President exercises personal control of drone assassination of U. S. citizens, and it is between probable and certain that all major CIA initiatives going back to the agency's beginnings were known at the time to the President, the cabinet, and at least selected legislators in both houses of Congress.

            Indeed, many were widely known and supported by the Press and public opinion, at least early on. And that, I think, is a major part of the underlying problem. A poisonous combination of political and historical ignorance with periodic moral panics leads to atrocious public policy choices. During the last century or so we have had two Red Scares, a "fifth column" panic on the West coast at the start of WW II, anti-alcohol and several waves of anti-drug hysteria (and seem to be starting another even now), the Satanism and pornography panics, and the terrorism panic. From those, with enthusiastic support of much of the population, we have got a huge amount of criminal activity that extended into Canada, Mexico, and other Central and South American countries; four rather large undeclared wars, the most recent associated with renditions and officially sanctioned assassinations; internment without due process of more than 100,000 of Japanese origin, most of them U. S. born citizens; serious attempts to suppress First Amendment rights in the '50s, '60s, and '70s and questionable, if not illegal, collection of communication data since the 1940s. In addition, scores of people were jailed or blacklisted based on their leftish political leanings and quite a few others were convicted and given long sentences based on testimony from carefully indoctrinated small children about acts that were impossible or for which there was no corroborating evidence. Unfortunately for those who argue that the government and its various agencies aim to oppress us and become our rulers, most of this resulted, directly or indirectly, from legislative and executive actions taken with the support or acquiescence of a majority of the population.

            And now we have yet another moral panic, about privacy. It is expressed at Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, and the like, who know mostly what we choose freely to let them know; and very slightly more recently, the NSA, which collects huge amounts of data about both U. S. residents and others. I suspect this will be merged to another budding panic, over theft of personal financial and credit information. This will result in many stern editorials, great stirring among the people, and demands that Something Be Done about it. Our dutiful legislators, having tested the wind direction, will comply as they did when the question was about Communism, drug addiction, or terrorism. I know no reason to believe that the results will be appreciably better.

  4. hammarbtyp

    Irony, we've heard of it....

    Would that be the same Rand Paul who filibustered against the use of armed drones against Americans at home (which hasn't actually happened) at the same time fought for the rights of Americans to own assault rifles and kill each other?

    Anyway shouldn't he be suing George W and Dick C, because I am pretty sure the original parameters of the NSA surveillance was set up when the government set up the patriot act so burning a number of page of the much vaunted constitution

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      Re: Irony, we've heard of it....

      If you believe the adage that "a well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny", then it's a logical and consistent position to adopt.

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Irony, we've heard of it....

        So what you are saying is that it is OK as long as everyone has access to missile firing drones?

        Why not take this to the logical conclusion. Everyone should have nukes, because if we outlaw nukes, only criminals and terrorists will have nukes. Certainly it would make stand your ground laws a tad more exciting.

        If you believe that arming a few right wing nut jobs to the teeth is the best way to defend your liberties then I would suggest you try moving the Zimbabwe, El Salvador, or anywhere where law is governed by local militias and try your habeas corpus there

        1. Eddy Ito

          Re: Irony, we've heard of it....

          Perhaps you're not clear on the US definition of "assault rifle". It means a Sauer S303 painted black with a ten round magazine. It's not exactly a missile firing drone or a nuke and your logical conclusion is anything but given how recklessly US Presidents have historically gone about their todger swinging diplomacy. But if you feel such tools are the work of the devil, you can always move to Colombia where you can feel safe since such things are illegal there (article 8 clause c).

    2. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: Irony, we've heard of it....

      Yep, look up him and his goofy dad, Ron Paul, for laughs aplenty, especially if you aren't in the USA.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop The Bullshit! Stop The NSA/GCHQ/5Eyes

    C'mon el Reg! Create stopthensa.theregister.co.uk and get the bloody ball rolling on this issue. Stop pussy-footing around the issue and do something about it! You're with us, right? Like, you agree, snooping is bad, right? You do or you don't? Come out with it and act!!

  6. Sanctimonious Prick

    It Feels Good To Be Anonymous Once In A While

    Always wondered why some posters use the AC nick. Now I've done it twice, I get it. It feels good. Thank you el Reg. :D

    1. Sanctimonious Prick

      Re: It Feels Good To Be Anonymous Once In A While

      Damn! Forgot to tick the AC box!! FUGGIT!! :D

  7. Mephistro
    Thumb Down

    This Rand Paul guy...

    "... is a snake, but he is our snake now."

    Hmmm... let me check his bio ...

    Sorry, my wrong. I don't want this particular snake in our side. Thank you, Mr. Paul, now get stuffed.

  8. rossde

    so while all this 'shock horror' is happening ANYONE can grab this software legally

    http://www.mobistealth.com/mobile-phone-spy-software

    and do the same thing

    1. Mephistro

      @ rossde

      "...ANYONE can grab this software legally"

      Scale matters. It's like the difference between one or two hate crimes and Mathausen. Not saying that hate crimes should be allowed, of course, but the priorities...

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      If I'm not mistaken, you may be able to have phone snooping software legally, but I think you'll find that if ever anyone finds out you've used it on them without their permission or knowledge, the water you'll find yourself in will not be lukewarm.

  9. Sherrie Ludwig

    Even a stopped clock...

    ... is right twice a day. For anyone not familiar with US politics, Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul are foil-hat loonies of the first water. If there is a goofy, far-out, been thought of and sensibly discarded populist idea for mis-managing the country, these guys have thumped a tub for it. They sound reasonable when one is half-listening, but then they go way off the rails into right wingnut territory. Their support of what sounds like a sensible idea reminds me of when Richard Nixon, after his resignation in disgrace, offered his services to the Republicans to endorse their candidates, and he was delicately told, um, thanks, we'll call you.......

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