We're Too Big and Disorganized to Comply With Court Orders, Says NSA


NSA headquarters

You know what's in the vending machines at the National Security Agency (NSA)? High-octane chutzpah, to judge by a recent court filing. In response to a court order that the spook agency preserve evidence as part of a long-running lawsuit, the NSA's shysters responded with a "so sorry, we're just too big to get with the program."

Just try that at home.

It's all part of the Jewel vs. NSA lawsuit, in which the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents AT&T customers who want the snoops to stop pawing through their communications. As the EFF puts it, "Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA."

There's plenty more too, including testimony by NSA whistleblowers.

Apparently finding the claims in the case at least somewhat compelling, the judge ordered the NSA to preserve all relevant evidence.

No can do, says the NSA. The very next day, the NSA's attorneys filed a response complaining, "Assuming that the Court's June 5, 2014 order requires an immediate halt to destruction of all Section 702 materials, that order creates an extremely significant operational crisis for the National Security Agency."

An extremely significant operational crisis? Do tell.

it may not be possible to comply immediately or in the near term with the Court's order without shutting down all systems and databases that collect and store Section 702 communications data, which will have enormous adverse consequences for NSA's ability to perform its foreign intelligence mission. In the long term, NSA could not comply with this preservation mandate without violating Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)-ordered minimization procedures that are essential to the program's compliance with statutory and constitutional requirements, and without potentially severe operational difficulties that could jeopardize national security.

Basically, the NSA's argument is that preserving evidence that it is violating people's privacy would violate people's privacy because there's just too much to parse through to make sure the important stuff is preserved. And national security. Did we mention national security? National security.

Cuz we know the NSA just isn't in the business of hoarding and storing massive quantities of information. Uh uh.

"If the NSA does not have to keep evidence of its spying activities, how can a court ever test whether it is in fact complying with the Constitution?," asks Patrick C. Toomey of the American Civil Liberties Union.

He may be on to something there.

The NSA's headquarters, pictured above, actually is very big.

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  1. Hey, you have a haystack this big, sometimes extra straw is going to waft over on the breeze and deposit on top.

  2. The NSA’s headquarters, pictured above, actually is very big.

    From what I am given to understand the majority of it is actually underground.


      1. NO SPOILERS.

  3. Just think how much money has been sunk into that building, from equipment to security to inflated salaries. All to spy on…all of us.

    It’s good feeling, isn’t it?

  4. The obvious solution is to give them more money and power, right?

  5. So if I get really rich, does that mean I’m too rich to comply with IRS regs?

    1. Get rich enough and the IRS complies with you.

  6. That building looks like the Bastille.

  7. “No Politician is Safe”…. Perhaps Doherty is not aware that there are 2 parties, and while the Republican party seems to be engaged in a little navel gazing regarding the tea party and libertarians, the democrats don’t seem to be doing anything but continuing to push their progressive agenda. I don’t see any ideology grappling going on there. Just stoopid as usual.

    1. While small victories are still victories, it’s still possible to win all the battles and still lose the war.

  8. If the various appendages of the executive branch can ignore the courts, which they seem to be doing more and more frequently, why should anyone else pay attention to them?

    The sooner this govt. eats itself, the better.

  9. potentially severe operational difficulties that could jeopardize national security.

    Emphases added. Can’t the courts just say “Comply. We’ll chance it.”?

  10. Shut ’em down, the whole thing! If bin Laden somehow miraculously arises from his watery slumber to rain hell on the US, at least we will go as free men. But I’d far rather that than giving the spooks the green light to continue to grow into something even bigger and worse than Obamacare and Socialist Insecurity put together.

  11. I want to see the judge put a Vice Admiral in a cell for not complying.

    1. And I asked god for an asteroid strike. But did he listen? Nooooooo.

  12. “You know what’s in the vending machines at the National Security Agency (NSA)? High-octane chutzpah, to judge by a recent court filing.”

    That is some nice writing, J.D.

  13. I think the NSA is saying that they are collecting so much data that would fall under this “section 702” category that they have to process and discard most of it fairly quickly. They seem to be claiming that they are collecting data on such a vast scale that there is no possible way to store all of it for an indefinite period.

    Which sounds like they are collecting way, way, way more than metadata about phone and internet traffic.

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