(CN) – The D.C. Circuit agreed to rehear a lawsuit accusing the government of wiretapping a man’s phone because he said the word “bomb” in an innocent conversation with a Southwest Airlines representative.
In February, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 to reinstate Scott Tooley’s lawsuit, which had been dismissed for lack of standing.
Tooley said he called the airline in 2002 to buy tickets, and ended up in hot water after responding to the representative’s solicitation for “comments, questions or suggestions.” Tooley allegedly told her that Southwest should screen “everything,” and that without proper security, passengers were “less safe due to the potential that those who wish to harm American citizens could put a bomb on the plane.”
The representative immediately replied, “You said the ‘b’ word, you said the ‘b’ word,” and put him on hold, Tooley claimed. After 20 minutes, he hung up.
More than a year later, government authorities illegally wiretapped his phone and placed him on “one or more terrorist watch lists,” he claimed. He also accused authorities of putting a tracking device in his car, and improperly searching and detaining him at airports.
The 2-1 majority called Tooley’s claims “thin,” but agreed with his argument that the district court had misunderstood his complaint.
Chief Judge Sentelle, in the dissenting opinion, acknowledged that claims can be based on “information and belief,” but said the phrase should not apply to “a fanciful, paranoid, or irrational belief based on nothing more than the plaintiff’s internal belief structure.”
Without comment, the court vacated its panel ruling and agreed to rehear the case after further briefing.