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Attorney in NSA case no stranger to headlines

WASHINGTON — Conservative lawyer Larry Klayman might not be an all-around household name, but it's a good bet he has sued someone who is.

Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Dick Cheney. Osama bin Laden. Fidel Castro. And, the target of Klayman's most recent legal tangle: President Barack Obama. Klayman is one of the plaintiffs who won an initial round this week in a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon on Monday granted Klayman's request for an injunction blocking the collection of phone data for Klayman and co-plaintiff Charles Strange. The judge stayed the action pending an expected government appeal, but the ruling in his favor in federal court puts Klayman back in the headlines with his legal activism.

Early in his career, Klayman worked for the Justice Department as a prosecutor during the administration of President Ronald Reagan. In 1994, he founded the group Judicial Watch.

With Klayman at the helm, the primary focus was President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary. He filed dozens of lawsuits against the Clintons and the Clinton administration. In one, he represented Gennifer Flowers, who claimed to have had an affair with Bill Clinton, in a defamation lawsuit against Mrs. Clinton. Klayman also sued for access to thousands of lost Clinton administration emails.

He went after his own party too. In 2002, Judicial Watch sued Vice President Dick Cheney and Halliburton, alleging fraudulent accounting practices at the oil services company Cheney once ran.

A hero to some, a troublemaker to others, Klayman's detractors over the years are quick to point to one lawsuit he doesn't talk much about. Klayman sued his own mother.

The case against his mom involved reimbursement for medical care expenses for his grandmother. Klayman has defended the suit, saying he didn't know his mom was suffering dementia and that he was simply trying to protect his grandmother, a woman with whom he was very close.

Outside the courtroom, Klayman tried his hand at politics. In 2004 he ran for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Florida Democrat Bob Graham. Klayman lost in the GOP primary. Mel Martinez ended up winning the seat.

After the Senate run, Klayman returned to the legal world and founded the group Freedom Watch. There, he has sued OPEC over price fixing allegations, sought damages from Venezuela's president, the late Hugo Chavez, by claiming crimes against humanity, and he's even sued Facebook. He went after the social media site and founder Mark Zuckerberg for $1 billion because they didn't take down a radical Palestinian page called "Third Intifada" that Klayman charged threatened Jews with death.

Klayman says he hasn't counted the number of lawsuits he's filed over his career, but the NSA spying case is his biggest.

"This is the worst violation of constitutional rights in U.S. history," Klayman said Tuesday. "If the judiciary doesn't step in against the tyranny of the executive and legislative branches, then we're going to be in the streets."
 

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