NSA Sets November Deadline to Bin Phone Metadata

The US National Security Agency has finally set a date for the deletion of a vast trove of metadata it collected on the phone numbers of millions of Americans, which was first revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden two years ago.

In a statement on its Tumblr page, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that “all historical metadata” collected under the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act would be binned by 29 November.

The bulk surveillance program in its current form was effectively marked for the scrap heap in June by NSA reform legislation the Freedom Act.

However, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled last month that it could continue during a six-month transition period to the new Act.

That will take it up to the November deadline, after which time NSA agents will be forced to use a new MO whereby they have to request phone records – but not content – on an individual basis.

There were caveats to the 29 November deadline, however.

“Solely for data integrity purposes to verify the records produced under the new targeted production authorized by the USA FREEDOM Act, NSA will allow technical personnel to continue to have access to the historical metadata for an additional three months,” the Tumblr statement explained.

The NSA said it will also need to hang on to metadata in order to deal with multiple lawsuits related to its bulk collection of phone records.

Specifically, it explained:

“Separately, NSA remains under a continuing legal obligation to preserve its bulk 215 telephony metadata collection until civil litigation regarding the program is resolved, or the relevant courts relieve NSA of such obligations. The telephony metadata preserved solely because of preservation obligations in pending civil litigation will not be used or accessed for any other purpose, and, as soon as possible, NSA will destroy the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata upon expiration of its litigation preservation obligations.”

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