Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson told a federal judge on Thursday that he should be able to move forward with a class-action lawsuit against the National Security Agency over allegations of illegal mass surveillance.
Mr. Anderson, a Democrat who ran for president in 2012 under the Justice Party, is pursuing legal action against the NSA spurred by a 2013 Wall Street Journal report that suggested the agency had intercepted civilian phone calls and emails during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. Mr. Anderson was mayor of the Olympic host city at the time.
At a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court, Mr. Anderson argued that he should be allowed to proceed with the suit, even though the NSA’s attorneys say his claims are purely speculative, the Associated Press reported.
“We are not alleging the possibility” that communications were collected, Mr. Anderson told District Judge Robert Shelby. “We are alleging facts.”
“The allegations made by the plaintiffs in this case are extraordinary. They’re very serious,” said Judge Shelby.
Along with plaintiffs including Utah State Sen. Howard Stephenson, a Republican, Mr. Anderson alleges the NSA operation exposed nearly three years ago by the Journal resulted in his personal communications being collected by intelligence officials. The 2002 Winter Olympics were held not long after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, and other revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggest the agency ramped-up its surveillance efforts in the aftermath of 9/11.
According to the NSA, however, plaintiffs can’t actually prove that they were subject to mass surveillance, let alone show any harm happened as a result.
“There simply has been nothing to raise that from the possibility level to the plausibility level,” NSA attorney Caroline Anderson argued Thursday, according to a local Fox affiliate.
“I wish I could describe the people who have come forward or the people I’ve tracked down,” countered Mr. Anderson, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Should Judge Shelby decide to let the suit move forward, then the former Salt Lake mayor may indeed have his way. The Tribune reported that the judge is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether or not to let case continue, at which point he could ask the NSA to produce documents during the discovery phase that may potentially prove Mr. Anderson’s allegations.
“We shouldn’t look the other way and ignore those laws just because there’s a national security issue,” Mr. Stephenson said Thursday, the AP reported.
“The violations continue from here into the future by their retention of this data and the illegal access to that data that should have been private all along,” Mr. Anderson told FOX 13 outside of court.