US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) [official website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [complaint] against President Barack Obama, the Director of National Intelligence, the director of the NSA, and the director of the FBI [official websites] challenging the constitutionality of the NSA's surveillance program. The class action complaint seeks a declaration that the Mass Association Tracking Program (MATP) violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution [text], an injunction forbidding the government from continuing the program and an order to the defendants to purge the telephone metadata of the plaintiffs and class members from its MATP databases. Metadata, records that show that calls took place but exclude the content of the calls, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment, according to a 1979 Supreme Court ruling. The Obama administration has defended the MATP as lawful, pointing to the authorization of the program for 90-day intervals by 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [official website] in 2006, and Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesperson, expressed confidence in the legality of the program.
The revelations surrounding NSA surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. Earlier this month current and former US officials released [JURIST report] a report stating that less than 30 percent of all American's phone records due to the inability to keep up with the increased use of cellular phones. In late January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a motion [JURIST report] on behalf of terror suspect Jamshid Muhtorov to suppress evidence the NSA obtained from surveillance conducted pursuant to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) [text, PDF]. Also last month the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) [official website], an independent agency created by Congress to protect American privacy under anti-terrorism laws, issued a report [JURIST report] calling the NSA's metadata program illegal and saying that it should be ended. Earlier in January President Obama announced detailed plans [JURIST report] to change surveillance policy, curbing the abilities of intelligence agencies to collect and use American phone data. Also last month the DOJ filed an appeal to a federal district court ruling that held that the NSA program is likely unconstitutional [JURIST reports]. In December, a federal judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] ruled that the NSA's collection of American citizens' telephone records is legal [JURIST report]. In September the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court released [JURIST report] a previously classified opinion [text, PDF] explaining why an NSA program to keep records of Americans' phone calls is constitutional. Also in September the ACLU urged [JURIST report] the Obama administration to curb the FBI's surveillance powers.