"Purge" May Not Mean What You Think It Means

| Wed Mar. 19, 2014 2:18 PM EDT

Marcy Wheeler reports on today's Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board hearing:

The most striking aspect of the hearing was the tooth-pulling effort to get the panel to define the terms they use....The most interesting redefinitions were for “purge” and “search.”

....Purge does not mean — as you might expect — “destroy.” Rather, it means only “remove from NSA systems in such a way that it cannot be used.” Which, best as I understand it, means they’re not actually destroying this data.

....“Purge.” To keep. Somewhere else.

Maybe not even somewhere else! Perhaps to the NSA, purging a record merely means flipping a database flag so that it won't show up in ordinary queries. There's no telling.