New rules expand US intelligence access to data

Now the US counterterrorism agents will be able to keep information acquired from other federal agencies for up to five years.

Washington: President Barack Obama`s administration has adopted new guidelines that allow US counterterrorism agents to keep information acquired from
other federal agencies for up to five years.

The new guidelines were adopted in part in response to
intelligence lapses ahead of the 2009 Fort Hood military base
shooting and the foiled underwear bomb plot to blow up a plane
on Christmas Day 2009, the government said.

They will allow the National Counterterrorism Center
(NCTC) to hold onto a trove of information from other federal
agencies -- including on Americans not suspected of terrorism
-- for five years as opposed to 180 days.

The NCTC said the new guidelines will allow it to "retain
certain datasets that are likely to contain significant
terrorism information and are already in the lawful custody
and control of other federal agencies for up to five years."

The NCTC said the new process -- announced yesterday --
would be under "robust oversight" and would not compromise
civil liberties or privacy rights.

But Michael German, of the American Civil Liberties Union,
was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that the purpose
of such 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

"Watering down those rules raises significant concerns
that US 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."

US intelligence agencies have spent much of the last
decade working to improve the sharing of information after
bureaucratic feuding was identified as a major factor in
failing to prevent the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"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.

"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."