NSA can't stop deleting evidence because its system 'too complex'
11 June 2014, 14:37 -- The National Security Agency recently used a novel argument for not holding onto information it collects about users online activity: it's too complex. In a court filing on Friday, the NSA said that it was unable to ensure that it was not destroying evidence in a case over the legality of its surveillance operations, as a judge demanded.
Complying with the order 'would be a massive and uncertain endeavor because the NSA may have to shut down all databases and systems' that contain information under one of the agency's programs, the agency said.
Technology focused privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation, which currently has a case pending against NSA alleging the agency illegally intercepted client data, discovered through a Justice Department email slip-up last week that the agency was deleting evidence it had already been ordered to keep by multiple courts.
'The government's own declarations make clear that the government has destroyed three years of the telephone records it seized between 2006 and 2009; five years of the content it seized between 2007 and 2012; and seven years of the internet records it seized between 2004 and 2011, when it claims to have ended those seizures,' Electronic Frontier Foundation attorney Cindy Cohn wrote last Friday on behalf of the plaintiffs.
NSA argued that holding onto the data would be too burdensome. 'A requirement to preserve all data acquired under section 702 presents significant operational problems, only one of which is that the NSA may have to shut down all systems and databases that contain Section 702 information,' wrote NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett in a court filing submitted to the court.
'The crucial question is this: If the NSA does not have to keep evidence of its spying activities, how can a court ever test whether it is in fact complying with the Constitution?' American Civil Liberties Union attorney Patrick Toomey wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.
EFF legal director Cindy Cohn said the agency's explanation raises even more concerns over NSA's bulk surveillance programs, and furthers its case against them.
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