Former Justice Department prosecutor Larry Klayman filed a federal class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the nine companies named in a top-secret National Security Agency document published June 6 as partners in the NSA's PRISM Internet surveillance program.
The lawsuit seeks $20 billion in damages and attorney fees and an injunction ending the highly controversial program that began in 2007.
In addition to the nine companies named in a leaked NSA slideshow as providing government investigators direct, real-time access to their servers – AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PalTalk, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube – the lawsuit targets the CEOs of each company, the telecom companies AT&T and Sprint and their CEOs, President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, NSA director Keith Alexander, the Department of Justice and the NSA.
Each of the nine companies has denied knowledge of, or participation in, the PRISM program.
There are three named plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday: Charles Strange, a Pennsylvania father whose son Michael, a Navy SEAL Team VI member, died in Afghanistan in 2011, and California private investigators Michael Ferrari and Matt Garrison.
"Defendants' willful acts constitute outrageous conduct insofar as they violated Plaintiffs' and Class members' basic democratic rights, constitutional rights, and exposed them to beyond an 'Orwellian regime of totalitarianism,'" the lawsuit says. "Plaintiffs' and Class members' rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence and other government agencies, as well as all of the Defendants."
The actions of Obama and the other government officials named in the lawsuit "chill, if not 'kill,' speech by instilling in Plaintiffs, members of the Class, and over a hundred million of Americans the fear that their personal and business conversations with other U.S. citizens and foreigners are in effect tapped and illegally surveyed," the lawsuit says.
Klayman filed a similar class-action lawsuit Monday against Verizon and several government officials for collecting the phone records of millions of Americans with a secret court order. Within a few months, Klayman told U.S. News, the court will likely define the class the suit seeks to represent by ruling that "everyone's in" or by allowing Verizon customers to either opt-in or out-out of that class. He intends for the two cases to be considered jointly.
In a released Wednesday statement, Klayman said: "The American people can... use these class actions to 'man the barricades of freedom' against the establishment government despots and their corporate enablers who seek to enslave them through coercive abuses of their privacy. This Orwellian power grab can only be intended to blackmail the masses into submission in order that these modern day greedy tyrants achieve their corrupt ends."
Both lawsuits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Klayman founded the pro-transparency legal group Judicial Watch in 1994 and currently leads an organization called Freedom Watch.
A copy of the lawsuit: