A CALIFORNIA US District Court has ruled that the US National Security Agency (NSA) must not delete data that it might have gathered illegally, as it might be used in lawsuits.
The court has already ruled that the NSA is not allowed to delete any related information for the foreseeable future because it could be used as evidence in legal cases. Now it has underlined this ruling with a restraining order.
"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. A temporary restraining order is necessary and appropriate in order to allow the Court to decide whether the evidence should be preserved with the benefit of full briefing and participation by all parties," the court said in a statement.
"Defendants, their officers, agents, servants.employees, and attorneys, and all those in active concert or participation with them are prohibited, enjoined, and restrained from destroying any potential evidence relevant to the claims at issue in this action, including but not limited to prohibiting the destruction of any telephone metadata or 'call detail' records, pending further order of the Court."
On Friday the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court ruled that the US Department of Justice (DoJ) is not allowed to keep similar data indefinitely, despite its protests. According to a report at The Verge the judge was sure of his decision and quickly denied the DoJ appeal.
Judge Reggie Walton said that letting data be stored longer than five years "would further infringe on the privacy interests of United States persons whose telephone records were acquired in vast numbers and retained by the government".
"The government seeks to retain these records, not for national security reasons, but because some of them may be relevant in civil litigation in which the destruction of those very same records is being requested," he added.
The ACLU was not particularly moved by the attempt to get a stay on deletion when it first came up, and suggested that the issue was just wasting time.
"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." µ