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US government cites PRISM for needing to keep phone records longer

Lawsuits are like a monkey on its back
Thu Feb 27 2014, 17:07
magnifying glass

THE UNITED STATES Department of Justice (DoJ) would like to hold onto personal phone records longer, because of - oh, the irony - all the anti-NSA PRISM lawsuits.

According to reports at The Verge and the Wall Street Journal - the latter is paywalled - the DoJ has asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for a longer hold on phone records because it is jostling in the courts with outfits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The request asked that data be kept longer, and not purged, in case it is needed at a later time, but added that it would not be open to inspection by government agents. Rather, it would be open only to lawyers and the courts, we assume.

In the request the government said that "telephony metadata" would be kept under "strict conditions," and with a "limited purpose". That purpose is defending the NSA's bulk telephony metadata collection programme against "several" civil lawsuits.

The ACLU was unimpressed by the claim, and has released a statement that suggests it views the move as a hollow act.

"This is just a distraction," said ACLU legal director Jameel Jaffer. "We don't have any objection to the government deleting these records. While they're at it, they should delete the whole database."

Last week the EFF released an open letter in which it tried to encourage the technology industry to make it hard for the NSA and other governments to snoop on communications and citizens.

"A future where we cannot trust the very technologies meant to secure our communications is fundamentally unsustainable. It's time for technology companies to start helping users regain trust, with transparency and active opposition to illegal surveillance," it said as it introduced a best practices guide.

"Implementing the requisite changes in technical infrastructure and business practices may have short-term costs; however, the long-term cost of keeping users in perpetual fear of NSA sabotage is far greater." µ


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