NSA, FBI ask judge to dismiss lawsuit claiming mass surveillance at '02 Utah Olympics
Mayor claims emails, texts, phone calls monitored
The FBI and National Security Agency have asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a former Salt Lake City mayor who claims agencies conducted mass surveillance of emails, texts and phone calls during the city's 2002 Winter Olympics.
There's no evidence the security agencies intercepted all communications in the Salt Lake City area before and during the games, federal lawyers argued in court documents. They also said the plaintiffs cannot show they were harmed if the surveillance did happen.
The agencies filed court documents last week asking a federal judge in Utah to dismiss the case. A judge has not yet made a decision.
Attorney Rocky Anderson, who was Salt Lake City's mayor at the time of the games, said Thursday that warrantless surveillance is harmful and the federal government needs to be held accountable.
"If these incursions on our rights of privacy and federal felonies are allowed to continue to go unchallenged, then we are further paving the road toward a more totalitarian and closed government," he said.
Anderson said he learned about the program from a 2013 report in the Wall Street Journal and has since confirmed it with an unnamed source who worked for the NSA during the Olympics. The games in and around the Salt Lake City area took place less than six months after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
His lawsuit was filed in August and names six plaintiffs, including Republican Utah Sen. Howard Stephenson and Utah historian William Bagley.
Anderson said he has identified nearly 200 other people who could make similar claims that the agency violated their constitutional rights as well as several laws.
In their response to the lawsuit, the NSA and FBI said the plaintiffs have not shown they have legal standing to seek damages or how they were harmed by "the claimed surveillance."
Agency lawyers also cited federal laws that make federal government immune from a lawsuit. Attorneys said an exception under the federal Privacy Act does not apply.
Anderson's lawsuit alleges the NSA and FBI collected the contents of text messages and emails and data on every phone call in the area without probable cause.
The lawsuit seeks damages of at least $10,000 per plaintiff. Anderson has said it could be expanded to hundreds of thousands of people—everyone who was in Salt Lake City during that time as well as anyone who communicated with someone there.
Anderson said Thursday that he plans to file a response to the government's claims and have at least one NSA source testify in the case.
Anderson served as a Democratic mayor of Utah's capital city from 2000 to 2008. He was an outspoken leader who led a protest of the Iraq War during President George W. Bush's 2007 visit to Salt Lake City. In 2011, he mounted a presidential campaign under his newly formed Justice Party.