By Saturday afternoon, more than 250,000 people had signed on to the class-action lawsuit U.S. Sen. Rand Paul plans to file against the Obama administration over the National Security Agency's (NSA) collection of data through domestic surveillance programs.
Paul, R-Bowling Green, had been contemplating the effort for several months and announced it Friday night when appearing on Hannity on Fox News.
The senator said he hopes to take the suit against President Barack Obama and the NSA "all the way to the Supreme Court" on the issue of "whether or not constitutionally you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people."
Paul, who saw his national profile skyrocket early last year when he filibustered the nomination of CIA director John Brennan over domestic drone use, said he thinks "everybody in American who has a cell phone would be eligible for this class-action suit."
Paul has not yet filed suit, but he said he plans to do so this month when the complaint is ready.
"We want to overwhelm the government," Paul said. "And we want to show publicly that hundreds of thousands of people ... object to the government looking at our records without our permission."
Kentucky's junior senator, who is openly considering a 2016 presidential run, has enlisted failed gubernatorial candidate and outgoing Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to be a legal adviser in the suit.
Paul's announcement came the same day a federal appeals court ruled that the Obama administration may continue to keep secret a Justice Department memo that establishes the legal basis for the government to collect calling records from telephone companies without a subpoena or court order, according to The New York Times.
Paul encouraged the show's viewers to join his suit through his Facebook page or the website of RAND PAC, his political action committee.
The senator said he wants to sign up anyone who wants "to say to the government and to the NSA, 'No, you can't have our records without our permission or without a warrant specific to an individual.'"
"We want them to protect the Fourth Amendment. We want them to protect the right to privacy," Paul said. "We want them to understand that we're not willing to trade our liberty for security. That we think we can have security, that we can defend against terrorism but that doesn't mean every single American has to give up their privacy."
Paul was dismissive of Obama's pledge to review and reform NSA spying habits, saying he was concerned the president would "whitewash" the results.
"This has to be decided publicly by the Supreme Court," Paul said. "The president doesn't get to create the law, write the law and decide and adjudicate it."
Sam Youngman: (502) 875-3793. Twitter: @samyoungman. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com