TIME

NSA Wants to Keep Phone Records Longer Because of Privacy Lawsuits

NSA Surveillance
This June 6, 213 file photo shows the sign outside the National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. Patrick Semansky—AP

The snooping agency says it needs the records as evidence. The ACLU says the agency's request is "a distraction."

The National Security Agency says it needs to hold Americans’ phone records for longer than the law currently allows so they can be used as evidence in the many privacy lawsuits the agency is now facing for holding Americans phone records.

Under current law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court often gives the NSA permission to vacuum up phone records on the condition the spy agency deletes the records after five years, National Journal reports. The Justice Department argued in a court filing Wednesday that it needs to hold records—including call times, phone numbers, and call duration—longer than five years in case they are needed as evidence.

“The United States must ensure that all potentially relevant evidence is retained,” the filing says.

The government says records will be retained in a way that will prevent NSA analysts from looking through them after the expiration date.

The ACLU, which is among several privacy groups suing the government over the NSA’s surveillance programs, called the Justice Department’s request “a distraction.”

“We don’t have any objection to the government deleting these records,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “While they’re at it, they should delete the whole database.”

[National Journal]

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