FISA court reverses order to destroy NSA phone data

The Judge had refused permission to the NSA to keep phone metadata beyond five years

The U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has temporarily reversed its earlier order that call records collected by the National Security Agency should be destroyed after the current five-year limit.

The court modified its stand after a District Court in California on Monday ordered the government to retain phone records it collects in bulk from telecommunications carriers, as the metadata could be required as evidence in two civil lawsuits that challenge the NSA's phone records program under section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The conflicting directives from federal courts puts the government in "an untenable position" and are likely to create confusion and uncertainty among all concerned about the status of the data collected over five years ago, Reggie B. Walton, presiding judge of the FISC, wrote in his order on Wednesday.

It is appropriate for the District Court rather than the FISC to decide what telephone metadata would be required as evidence in the civil suits, he added.

In view of the restraining order by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, hearing the two civil cases, the Department of Justice filed Tuesday for temporary relief from a FISC order on Friday to destroy the phone data within the five-year limit.

District Judge Jeffrey S. White of the California court had issued a temporary restraining order that the call data should be retained as evidence after the government informed plaintiffs and courts hearing civil cases against the NSA program that in line with the FISC order, it would start destroying the records on Tuesday in the absence of a court order to the contrary. A hearing on whether the District Court order should continue is set for March 19.

Judge Walton had on Friday denied a DOJ motion for relief from the current five-year limit for holding the data, citing privacy interests and the absence of any preservation order from a court or the indication of a request from a plaintiff for the retention of the phone data.

The data preserved beyond five years cannot be accessed by NSA intelligence analysts for any purpose, and can only be accessed by technical personnel for ensuring continued compliance with the government's preservation obligations, Judge Walton wrote in his revised order.

The government will have to give prior notice to the surveillance court if any further access to the data is required for civil litigation, and also notify it of a resolution in the temporary restraining order proceedings in the California court, he added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags regulationsecurityU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtCivil lawsuitslegalU.S. National Security Agencygovernmentprivacy

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?