NSA wants lawsuit over 2002 Olympic spying tossed

Posted at 5:10 PM, Dec 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-23 23:51:42-05

SALT LAKE CITY -- The National Security Agency is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit that alleges it spied on every person in the Salt Lake City area during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

The class action lawsuit, filed by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, alleges the NSA eavesdropped on everyone in and around Olympic venues throughout the entire two weeks of the games, including phone call metadata, text messages and emails.

"This is the very definition of tyranny," Anderson said in an interview Wednesday with FOX 13. "I don't overstate it when I use that word."

Anderson, who was mayor of the city during the 2002 Olympics, said he believed the NSA's actions would be the largest surveillance ever recorded on U.S. citizens.

In the filing in U.S. District Court, the NSA asks a judge to dismiss the lawsuit. It claims Anderson's plaintiffs are not entitled to collect damages because of government immunity statutes, and he cannot prove there was actually any surveillance going on.

"They maintain that the Government intercepted their communications during the 2002 Winter Olympics, based on a bare assertion that the Government intercepted “everyone[’s]” communications in Salt Lake City while the Games were underway. But the Complaint contains no factual enhancement to support this allegation, and under the plausibility standard of pleading, it is not entitled to the presumption of truth," the filing states.

Read the NSA filing here:

It adds that anything that allegedly happened was 14 years ago, and can't be shown to injure the people suing.

"You can't prove that we violated the law because we're not going to give you the documents that establish we violated the law, and we don't have to give you those documents because we've determined that to do so would be inimical to the security of this country," Anderson said in response.

Anderson said he has a source -- a former high-ranking NSA official -- who would verify his claims of mass surveillance in Salt Lake City. He declined to identify that source, but said he believed that person would step forward as the lawsuit progresses.

Anderson also pointed to comments made to FOX 13 in 2013 by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as confirming the existence of surveillance during the Olympics.

"Remember, we were very concerned about terrorism and terrorist activities at that time," Hatch said in the interview, which was in response to reports about domestic surveillance during the Olympics.

"I want people to know that these people at the NSA are doing absolutely critical work for our country and had they not been doing it, we might well have had some more terrorist incidents like 9/11," Hatch added.

Anderson is expected to respond to the NSA's request to dismiss the lawsuit, with a hearing scheduled next year.