Under new Obama administration guidelines the U.S. intelligence community will be able to store information about American citizens with no ties to terrorism for up to five years.
Under the old rules, the National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information gathered about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when clear ties to terrorism were unable to be established.
Congress called for expanding the information retention authority of the NCTC since the intelligence community supposedly was unable to connect the dots of intelligence between multiple agencies leading up to the failed bombing attempt on a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas 2009.
“Following the failed terrorist attack in December 2009, representatives of the counterterrorism community concluded it is vital for NCTC to be provided with a variety of datasets from various agencies that contain terrorism information,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement late Thursday. “The ability to search against these datasets for up to five years on a continuing basis as these updated guidelines permit will enable NCTC to accomplish its mission more practically and effectively.”
“It is a vast expansion of the government’s surveillance authority,” Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said of the five-year retention period.
The government put in strong safeguards at the NCTC for the data that would be collected on U.S. citizens for intelligence purposes, Rotenberg said. These new guidelines undercut the Federal Privacy Act.
“Total Information Awareness appears to be reconstructing itself,” Rotenberg said, referring to the Defense Department’s post-9/11 data-mining research program that was killed in 2003 because of privacy concerns.
The Obama administration said the new rules come with strong safeguards for privacy and civil liberties. Before the NCTC may obtain data held by another government agency, there is a high-level review to assure that the data “is likely to contain significant terrorism information,” Alexander Joel, the civil liberties protection officer at national intelligence directorate, said in a news release Thursday.
The NCTC was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to be the central U.S. organization to analyze and integrate intelligence regarding terrorism.