Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

In potential conflict with FISA court, California court wants NSA phone records kept

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court last week disallowed retention of phone records beyond five years

Article comments

A court in California has prohibited the destruction of phone records collected by the government until further orders, raising a potential conflict with an order last week by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, D.C.

Judge Jeffrey S. White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered Monday the retention of the call details in two lawsuits that have challenged the U.S. National Security Agency's program for the collection of telephone metadata.

A number of lawsuits challenging the NSA program have been filed by privacy and other groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles. The NSA's former contractor, Edward Snowden, disclosed in June last year that the government was collecting phone records in bulk of U.S. customers of Verizon. The government subsequently confirmed the existence of the controversial surveillance program.

On Friday, Reggie B. Walton, presiding judge of the FISC, denied a motion from the Department of Justice that the current five-year limit for holding phone metadata should be extended indefinitely as it could be required as evidence in the civil lawsuits challenging the program.

An extension of the time limit would further infringe on the privacy interests of U.S. persons whose phone records were acquired in large numbers and retained by the government for five years to assist in national security investigation, Judge Walton wrote in his order. ("The great majority of these individuals have never been the subject of investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities," he wrote.

In his temporary restraining order, Judge White has, however, prohibited the destruction of any "potential evidence relevant to the claims at issue" in the lawsuits, including the destruction of any telephone metadata or "call detail" records, pending a further order of the court.

"It is undisputed that the Court would be unable to afford effective relief once the records are destroyed, and therefore the harm to Plaintiffs would be irreparable," Judge White wrote.

The DOJ could not be immediately reached for comment.

In a filing on Monday, the government told the District Court that it intended to comply with the FISC order in the absence of a court order to the contrary. It made similar submissions in other cases challenging the collection of phone metadata under section 215 of the Patriot Act, it said.

In his order, Judge Walton denied the government motion to allow the holding of data beyond five years but "without prejudice," which gives the government the option to file another motion on the issue in the light of additional facts or legal analysis.

Judge Walton pointed out in his order that so far no District Court or Circuit Court of Appeals has entered a preservation order relating to the phone metadata in connection with the civil suits cited by the government in its motion. There had also not been a request from plaintiffs in the civil suits that the data be preserved beyond the five-year limit. The order by Judge White changes that position.

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



Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *