U.S. court rejects Justice Department’s request to keep phone records longer

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WASHINGTON: A U.S. special court has rejected the Justice Department’s request to extend storage of classified National Security Agency (NSA) phone records beyond the current five-year legal limit, according to a court order released on Friday.

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The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said the Justice Department’s attempt to authorize keeping the records longer than the legal limit “is simply unpersuasive.”

The Justice Department has argued that it needs to preserve the records for a longer period of time as evidence in several pending lawsuits over the bulk data collection program.

“The Court has not found any case law supporting the government’s broad assertion that its duty to preserve supersedes statutory or regulatory requirements,” Judge Reggie Walton of the special court wrote in his decision.

The judge said that the amended procedures “would further infringe on the privacy interests of United States persons whose telephone records were acquired in vast numbers and retained by the government for five years to aid in national security investigations.”

U.S. President Barack Obama offered a series of proposals to change the NSA’s controversial surveillance practices earlier in January, about seven months after leaks by former defense contractor Edward Snowden sparked controversy and furor around the world. Highlights of his proposals include pulling back part of the NSA’s bulk collection of U.S. citizens’ phone records.

Obama directed the Justice Department and the intelligence community to develop options for a new approach of the domestic phone collection without the government holding the metadata. They are expected to report back to Obama before March 28. PNA

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