Can Rand Paul Actually Sue the NSA?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 13 2013 5:27 PM

Rand Paul Wants to Sue the NSA on Behalf of People Being Snooped On. But How?

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks during a news conference June 13, 2013 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rand Paul walked behind the podium of the Capitol Hill Club press room and hoisted three phones in the air. Cameramen snap-snip-snapped away. "Americans are rightly concerned about having all of their phone records collected and monitored all of the time!" he said. He'd stop that, as he'd been saying all week, by launching a civil suit against the NSA. As he talked, five House Republicans—Mark Sanford, Mick Mulvaney, Justin Amash, Louie Gohmert, and Tom Massie—filed in to nod their heads.

Everyone agreed that something needed to be filed. But... what, exactly? That wasn't clear, despite assists from representatives of the ACLU and Electronic Freedom Foundation. Paul was going to collect names on his RAND PAC website from anyone who offered them, because "my suspicion is everyone who has a cell phone in America is having their data tracked." Then there would be a rallying around a lawsuit of some kind.

"The mechanics may not be completed at this point," said Paul. "To marry 250,000 people, and I hope millions of people, to a lawsuit, will take some work. We're going to see if it can be one of the existing lawsuits. I need help and assistance from attorneys to explain to me whether or not you can have a class action lawsuit with this many people. Part of it is also to let people know there's a groundswell of people."


I asked Paul how his litigants would prove standing. Just a few months ago, in Clapper v. Amnesty International, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that people who are worried that they are being tracked don't have standing to sue; they "can only speculate as to how the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence will exercise their discretion in determining which communications to target." Why? The details are classified.

Paul handed the question to the ACLU's Laura Murphy. "We have greater standing than we ever have before because we have an actual copy of the FISA court's ruling," she said. "We don't have to say we think this data has been turned over to the government. We know this data has been turned over to the government."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful, a new book argues.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Lexicon Valley
Sept. 30 2014 1:23 PM What Can Linguistics Tell Us About Writing Better? An Interview with Steven Pinker.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.