A U.S. secret surveillance court has denied a bid by the U.S. government to hold onto phone records for more than five years, handing a rare win for civil liberties and privacy advocates. But because the motion was denied “without prejudice,” the Justice Dept. is allowed to file a new motion should new evidence or facts come to light. The U.S. government submitted a request in February to store the data, collected under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, for longer than five years.
The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has ruled against a U.S. government request that it be allowed to hold telephone metadata beyond the current five-year limit as it may be required as evidence in civil lawsuits that question the data collection. The American Civil Liberties Union, U.S. Senator Rand Paul, and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles are among those who have filed lawsuits challenging the phone records program, which came to light in June last year, after former National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden, revealed that the agency was collecting bulk phone records of Verizon customers in the United States.