A California district court has barred the National Security Agency from destroying old call records that may be relevant to an ongoing surveillance lawsuit. While the lawsuit aims to end the NSA's collection of call records — from AT&T customers in particular — the plaintiffs have actually filed and been granted a temporary restraining order that stops the government from destroying those call records after five years, as it normally would, while the court determines what records should be preserved as evidence for the trial. "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," District Judge Jeffrey White writes.
The restraining order was issued Monday, just days after the FISA court blocked the government's request to continue holding onto call records that were relevant to ongoing litigation. The court argued that privacy concerns overruled the government's request, even though the Justice Department said that the older records would not be searchable by NSA agents. With its quick action, the California district court has put a hold on that ruling for now, allowing relevant evidence to be preserved. The order came as part of Jewel v. NSA, a case brought in part by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that's been attempting to stop the government's collection of AT&T call records since 2008.