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Systems of NSA Too Complex to Prevent Data Deletion

A multitude of lawsuits have been filed against the National Security Agency for its surveillance programs, but the agency says that it does not hold onto information it collects online because their systems are too complex, according to The Washington Post.

One of the lawsuits that was filed prior to the Edward Snowden leaks is that of Jewel v. NSA. This suit challenges the constitutionality of surveillance programs operated by the NSA that collect information about the Internet and telephone activities of Americans.

An emergency order issued earlier last week by U.S. District for the Northern District of California Judge Jeffrey S. White was reversed on Friday. The order banned the government from destroying data that was requested to be preserved by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The data in the case was collected using the Section 702 of the Amendments Act to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

According to the NSA, holding the data would be too difficult to do.



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“A requirement to preserve all data acquired under section 702 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,” wrote NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett in a court filing.

“Communications acquired pursuant to Section 702 reside within multiple databases contained on multiple systems and the precise manner in which NSA stays consistent with its legal obligations under the [FISA Amendments Act] has resulted from years of detailed interaction” with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Department of Justice, Ledgett wrote. Data is regularly purged by the NSA “via a combination of technical and human-based processes,” he said.

Cindy Cohn, the legal director of the EFF, said the following about the explanation from the government: “To me, it demonstrates that once the government has custody of this information even they can’t keep track of it anymore even for purposes of what they don’t want to destroy With the huge amounts of data that they’re gathering it’s not surprising to me that it’s difficult to keep track– that’s why I think it’s so dangerous for them to be collecting all this data en masse.”

The case was filed back in 2008 and the government has argued if it should be thrown out. The government also said that Section 702 programs do not target Americans. Because of this, the government claims that the communications in question from this lawsuit were not acquired using the programs mentioned. EFF does not agree with this sentiment.

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