Imagine trying to tell a court you couldn’t produce the evidence they requested because your database was “too large and complex.” That’s exactly what the NSA did. And it looks like they’re about to get away with it.
In an era of too-big-to-fail banks, we should have known it was coming: An intelligence agency too big to rein in — and brazen enough to say so.
In a jaw-dropping legal filing on Friday afternoon, the NSA told a federal court that its spying operations are too massive and technically complex to comply with an order to preserve evidence. The NSA, in other words, now says that it cannot comply with the rules that apply to any other party before a court — the very rules that ensure legal accountability — because it is too big.
In its filing on Friday, the NSA told the court:
*”Attempts to fully comply with the Court’s June 5 Order would be a massive and uncertain endeavor because the NSA may have to shut down all databases and systems that contain Section 702 information in an effort to comply.”*
For an agency whose motto is “Collect It All,” the NSA’s claim that its mission could be endangered by a court order to preserve evidence is a remarkable one. That is especially true given the immense amount of data the NSA is known to process and warehouse for its own future use.
The crucial question is this: 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?
Perhaps most troubling, the new assertions continue the NSA’s decade-long effort to evade judicial review — at least in any public court. For years the NSA evaded review by telling courts that plaintiffs were speculating wildly when they claimed that the agency had intercepted their communications. Now, the NSA would put up a new fallacious roadblock — claiming that it is unable to preserve the very evidence that would allow a court to fully and fairly review those activities.
The NSA has grown far beyond the ability of its overseers to properly police its spying activities.
### No government agency, lawmaker, or officer is “too big” to be accountable to their [oath to defend and uphold the constitution.](http://www.nsa.gov/commitment/nation/) Badges and alphabet soup agencies don’t grant extra rights.[More.](https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/too-big-comply-nsa-says-its-too-large-complex-comply-court-order)