Former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ex-US president George W Bush, and senior police officials have been sued in a class-action court case for approving blanket email, phone and text message surveillance of law abiding citizens of Utah during the 2002 Winter Olympics.
In 2001 the NSA and FBI engaged in a deal with Qwest Communications for extensive surveillance reporting in Salt Lake City during the 2002 Olympics.
Ross "Rocky" Anderson, Salt Lake City’s mayor at the time, has now taken control of the case and has made a formal application for a class action lawsuit.
Anderson said, "This is the first time anyone knows of that a surveillance cone has been placed over a specific geographical area in the United States.”
Explaining further, he said, "What was so alarming was that they were reading the contents of the text messages and emails."
Anderson, who served as mayor between 2000 and 2008, said he had held talks with a source who had been a principal staffer in the NSA at that time.
He gave details of how the agency had performed secret metadata collection during the 2002 event on all citizens, while people who had also been identified as primary targets also had their emails read and phone calls recorded.
Anderson said that he went to the ACLU and EFF and asked for assistance with the court case, but they responded saying that they were too occupied. Undeterred, he found "an amazing summer clerk" who worked tirelessly to get the suit filed before the statute of limitations ran out.
There are presently six plaintiffs, including former Salt Lake City Council member Deeda Seed, Utah State Senator Howard Stephenson (R-Draper), and local historian Will Bagley. In addition to the presidential pair, the suit mentions Cheney's legal representative David Addington, who endorsed the surveillance and former NSA Director Michael Hayden.
The suit is going to prove remarkable, if it proceeds.
It could potentially expose just how the extensive surveillance started days after the September 11 attacks, and – significantly – if there was proper legal justification to do so.
When in power, Anderson was a vocal challenger of the local surveillance plan executed by the administration and was a fierce critic of the Bush administration. He called for Bush's arraignment over the controversial Iraq War and has been vigorous in investigating surveillance overreach cases.