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 newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyregulationlegalCivil lawsuitsU.S. National Security AgencyU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

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

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?