FISA Court Finally Discovers a Limit to the Word “Relevant”

A few weeks back I laughed that, in a probable attempt to score political points against those challenging the phone dragnet by asking to retain the phone dragnet longer than 5 years, DOJ had shown a rather unusual concern for defendant’s rights.

Judge Reggie Walton has just denied DOJ’s motion. In doing so he has found limits to the word “relevant” that otherwise seem unheard of at the FISC in recent memory.

For its part, the government makes no attempt to explain why it believes the records that are subject to destruction are relevant to the civil cases. The government merely notes that “‘[r]elevant’ in this context means relevant for purposes of discovery, … including information that relates to the claims or defenses of any party, as well as information that is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Motion at 6. Similarly, the government asserts that “[b]ased on the issues raised by Plaintiffs,” the information must be retained, but it fails to identify what those issues are and how the records might shed light on them. Id. at 7. Finally, the motion asserts, without any explanation, that “[b]ased on the claims raised and the relief sought, a more limited retention of the BR metadata is not possible as there is no way for the Government to know in advance and then segregate and retain only the BR metadata specifically relevant to the identified lawsuits.” Id. Of course, questions of relevance are ultimately matters for the courts entertaining the civil litigation to resolve. But the government now requests this Court to afford substantial weight to the purported interests of the civil litigants in retaining the BR metadata relative to the primary interests of the United States persons whose information the government seeks to retain. The government’s motion provides scant basis for doing so.

Shew. Given the way FISC has been defining the word “relevant” since 2004 to mean “virtually all,” I had thought the word had become utterly meaningless.

At least we know the word “relevant” has some limits at FISC, even if they’re unbelievably broad.

Mind you, I’m not sure whether FISC or the government is right in this case, as I do have concerns about the data from the troubled period during 2009 aging off.

But I will at least take some Friday afternoon amusement that the FISC just scolded the government about the word “relevant.”

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5 Responses to FISA Court Finally Discovers a Limit to the Word “Relevant”

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emptywheel @attackerman That's not a TAA dodge? They're not supposed to be fighting after all. If they are it's a problem @JamesWWeirick @BradMossEsq
emptywheel @MicahZenko Which is curious bc we don't have (many) forces in Yemen, which purportedly is where AQ is plotting v US, and hasn't succeeded
emptywheel @JamesWWeirick Not MUCH distance bet first stories and now: key Q (why MSF not IDed) not being addressed by design. @BradMossEsq
emptywheel @JamesWWeirick We don't actually know that. Campbell refused to say how close SOF who called in strikes were yesterday. @BradMossEsq
emptywheel Kelly Ayotte is making a pro-ISIS argument right here. If Iran fights ISIS, you see, we have to ally w/Taliban/AQ.
JimWhiteGNV Praise Tebow! My internet service has been restored. Let the good bits roll!
bmaz While Goodell witch hunts Brady+clogs Fed courts, his biggest ad dollars come from organized gambling
emptywheel @RealDirtyNick I noted that for 2 reasons I thought would be evident. 1) airstrikes ARE returning fire. 2) opint very impt for MSF strike
emptywheel @SarahKnuckey After basically saying, "my investigators are totally sufficient." AKA no. All the more reason for independent one.
emptywheel Shaheen: All of us horrified by that ACCIDENT. [emphasis original] Any problem w/independent investigation? Campbell: [Yes]
emptywheel Rather than returning fire, US troops call in air strikes.
bmaz Hey cable media, if you are suddenly going to talk openly about #BlackLivesMatter you should go to founder Opal Tometi @opalayo she's great.
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