Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah and last year’s Justice Party nominee for president, says he plans to sue the United States government over the illegal collection of private emails ahead of the 2002 Olympics.
Anderson served as mayor of Salt Lake City for eight years and played a leading role in hosting the 2002 Winter Olympics Games there. Only last week, though, did he learn that the US National Security Agency utilized equipment to intercept and monitor all email and text communications in the area for several months before the event.
The revelation, published Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, “fed into the Bush administration’s program of warrantless wiretapping,” the paper reported, and “circumvented the surveillance court on the authority of the president’s power as commander in chief.”
Now just learning of what happened a decade down the road, Anderson says he’s looking to sue. “When we brought the Olympics to this city, nobody agreed that we would trade off our fundamental civil rights for the government to come in and spy on us,” Anderson told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“We have to stand up,” he added to KUTV News. “All of Salt Lake City should be out in the streets outraged.” According to the former mayor, he attended a number of closed-door security meetings ahead of the festivities.
“Security was number one to me,” he told the network. Never once, however, was he informed that specialized machines would be collecting the contents of emails sent in and out of his city.
“If it had, I would have raised utter holy hell,” he told the Tribune. “For them to have done this to the people in Salt Lake City in every single instance was a federal felony under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”
The Journal reported last week that the NSA arranged for that sweep of communications with telecom provider Qwest Communications and it lasted for no longer than six months. Other elected officials seem largely split on the issue for now, though, so Anderson may need to work towards building support before launching a federal lawsuit.
“The Olympics had been targeted by terrorist in the past and so I cut them a little slack in that regard,” Governor Gary Herbert responded during a recent press conference. Former Sen. Bob Bennett told the Tribune, “If they were not intercepting text messages then they were not doing their jobs at the center of world attention.”
Others, like then-Gov. Mike Leavitt, also say they were never kept in the know.
“How do people feel about our federal government illegally, with no notice whatsoever, tapping into communications that were absolutely privileged under the law: reporters and their sources; physicians and psychiatrists with their patients; lawyers with their clients. All of that, the government thinks, it can capture because we are the host city of the Olympics?” Anderson asked the Tribune.
“If I can find the representation, I will sue everybody who had anything to do with this,” he added to KUTV.
Before becoming mayor of Salt Lake City in January 2000, Anderson practiced law for more than two decades and was editor-in-chief of the Voir Dire legal journal. He unsuccessfully ran for president of the US during last year’s election and garnered a total of 43,011 votes, or around 0.03 percent of the national popular vote.