THE UNITED STATES National Security Agency (NSA) has defended its failure to comply with a request for evidence in a lawsuit by saying that its systems are "too complicated" to prevent data from being deleted.
According to the Washington Post, NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett filed court documents explaining that, "A requirement to preserve all data acquired under Section 702 [of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)] 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."
Ledgett claimed that the problems stems from its need to comply with orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), and that failure to do so could cause "an immediate, specific, and harmful impact on the national security of the United States."
On one hand the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has lobbied to have such data destroyed, but on the other it is now in the rather unusual position of needing it preserved in order to argue that the NSA should not collect the data in the first place.
The discovery was made because of the EFF's support of a case made in the pre-Snowden era. The government has argued that the case should be thrown out in any case as the Section 702 programme does not target American citizens and therefore it was "highly unlikely" that the plaintiff would have been hacked.
Not everyone agrees with that analysis, and with faith in the NSA at an all time low, there is still dispute about whether the targets for Section 702 data collection were in fact a lot wider - after all, it's argument is effectively, "we don't have to comply because the NSA didn't do anything wrong", and as we know, that is a matter up for debate.
At this stage, there is "no doubt" in the EFF's mind that the NSA has destroyed some data, after it was discovered that the NSA has been looking at ways to avoid destroying data in order to comply, after it received a preservation order in 2009.
The plot thickens. µ