The Washington Post reports on new guidelines concerning data-gathering with probable effects on individuals’ privacy and civil liberties:
The Justice Department has approved guidelines that allow the intelligence community to lengthen the period of time it retains information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.
Senior U.S. officials familiar with the guidelines said the changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center, the intelligence community’s clearinghouse for counterterrorism data, to keep such information for up to five years.
Currently, the center must promptly destroy any information about U.S. citizens or residents unless a connection to terrorism is evident.
The new guidelines, which were approved Thursday, have been in the works for more than a year, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
The guidelines are likely to prompt concern from privacy advocates. Senior Justice Department officials said that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. worked to ensure that privacy protections were adequate. Among other provisions, agencies that share data with the NCTC may now stipulate that data be held for shorter periods. […]
The NCTC, created by the 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, collects information from numerous agencies and maintains access to about 30 different data sets across the government. But privacy safeguards differ from agency to agency, hindering effective analysis, senior intelligence officials said. […]
But the new retention period concerns privacy advocates.
The purpose of the safeguards is to ensure that the “robust tools that we give the military and intelligence community to protect Americans from foreign threats aren’t directed back against Americans,” said ACLU national security policy counsel Michael German. “Watering down those rules raises significant concerns that U.S. persons are being targeted or swept up in these collection programs and can be harmed by continuing investigations for as long as these agencies hold the data.”