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 One of greatest things abt Amazon's global logistics plan: Intel Community won't even have to leave IC server to get 1-stop 3rd party shop
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold Just be careful of the fire detectors. I hear CIA owns those.
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold John Brennan did not like being reminded that he drafted but did not send an apology. Never seen him that angry.
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emptywheel @JasonLeopold You're causing hella trouble today, between that and the blowup in SSCI. You hiding at Gitmo, bro?
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emptywheel @ncweaver Someone should bring back production of Soviet era Trabants and Skodas.
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bmaz @MasaccioEW I do not do this for nothing. Come on, you know me better than that. I have a target.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @Cirincione: Clapper headline shouldn’t be NK restarted its reactor — that was in 2013 — its that they may soon stop it and pull out Pu …
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emptywheel Craziest thing about this is there are PLENTY of NFL players w/similar proud profile as Beyonce. But they have penis https://t.co/1sQcEvmegy
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emptywheel On #crypto, is it me or did someone say we can't have crypto because of car crashes?
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emptywheel Told you all Beyonce being Beyonce was going to be more threatening than Janet's boob. https://t.co/1sQcEvmegy
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emptywheel Burr (and Comey) have JUST shown up it is a law enforcement issue, not an intel issue. So make it go through SJC, not SSCI.
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emptywheel Why are DAs going to Richard Burr on encryption? That's @ChuckGrassley's job, not Burr's.
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