N.J. Lawyers Sue Verizon Over NSA Data Collection

Two New Jersey public interest lawyers sued Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) for $5 billion Friday, claiming the phone carrier violated privacy laws by turning over phone records to the National Security Agency.

Attorneys Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit Friday afternoon in federal district court in Manhattan, where Verizon is headquartered.

The lawsuit asks the court to stop Verizon from turning over any more records to the NSA without a warrant or consent of the subscriber.

"This is the largest and most vast intrusion of civil liberties we've ever seen in the United States," Afran said of the NSA program.

USA Today reported on Thursday that the NSA has been building a database of millions of Americans' everyday telephone calls since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Verizon, along with AT&T Corp. (SBT) and BellSouth Corp., complied, the newspaper reported.

The lawsuit claims that by turning over the records to the government, Verizon violated the Telecommunications Act and the Constitution.

"No warrants have been issued for the disclosure of such information, no suspicion of terrorist activity or other criminal activity has been alleged against the subscribers," the lawsuit said.

Verizon, the country's largest telecommunications company by revenue, said in a statement that the company had not yet seen the lawsuit and, because of that, believed it was premature to comment.

The lawsuit seeks $1,000 for each violation of the Telecommunications Act, or $5 billion if the case is certified as class-action.

Afran said that he and Mayer will also ask for documents dealing with the origination of the program and President Bush's role in the program.

Afran and Mayer have filed numerous lawsuits against New Jersey officials over such things as political appointments and finances.