Security agency must hold on to phone metadata files to allow challenge of surveillance programs

The court charged with overseeing surveillance conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies ruled this week that the National Security Agency (NSA) could preserve telephone metadata beyond five years in cases challenging NSA’s surveillance program. The ruling prompted by a request from the Justice Department will allow plaintiffs to gain access to metadata collected by NSA. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) reversed an earlier ruling to allow for the discovery process to proceed. (Courthouse News Service, March 13, 2014, by Jack Bouboushian)

In response to plea from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a federal district judge in San Francisco ordered NSA on March 10 to retain phone records gathered for surveillance. The order led to the reversal by FISA. The judge scheduled a hearing for March 19 to determine the disposition of the records. (Chicago Tribune, March 10, 2014, by Karen Gullo, Bloomberg News)

Tim Cushing writing in Techdirt, March 13, 2014, notes that NSA would no doubt prefer to keep the metadata in its files considering that there are a great deal of records involved in the cases challenging the surveillance program.

The New York Times, published an article, March 12, 2014, by Charlie Savage and Laura Poitras, revealing the secret history of FISA, focusing on the covert “Raw Take” order, a ruling 10 months after 9/11 that enabled NSA, the FBI and CIA to share unfiltered information. Before that the agencies had to delete irrelevant private details and the names of innocent people from wiretaps of terrorist suspects.