New counterterrorism guidelines permit data on U.S. citizens to be held longer

Saturday, March 24, 2012
By Paul Martin

“We have been pushing for this because NCTC’s success depends on having full access to all of the data that the U.S. has lawfully collected,” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee. “I don’t want to leave any possibility of another catastrophic attack that was not prevented because an important piece of information was hidden in some filing cabinet.”

The shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., and the attempted downing of a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009 gave new impetus to efforts to aggregate and analyze terrorism-related data more effectively.

In the case of Fort Hood, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan had had contact with Awlaki but that information had not been shared across the government. The name of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the 2009 airliner plot, had been placed in a master list housed at the NCTC but not on a terrorist watch list that would have prevented him from boarding the plane.

Officials said the privacy safeguards in the new guidelines include limits on the NCTC’s ability to redistribute information to other agencies.

“Within the intelligence community, there’s one set of controls for terrorism purposes, a stricter set of controls for non-terrorism purposes, and an even stricter set of controls for dissemination outside the intelligence community,” an official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. An entire database cannot be shared; only specific information within that data set can be shared, and it must be with the approval of the agency that provided the data, the official said.

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