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 securityregulationU.S. National Security AgencylegalCivil lawsuitsU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courtgovernmentprivacy

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

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?