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U.S. Agencies Allowed to Keep Residents’ Data for Five Years

The U.S. intelligence community will be able to retain data on residents with no connection to terrorism for as long as five years under new guidelines.

The revised rules governing data accessed and disseminated by the National Counterterrorism Center, established in 2004 as the main U.S. terrorism intelligence agency, were announced yesterday in a statement released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Justice Department.

Allowing extended access to data maintained by other U.S. government agencies will let the counterterrorism center “accomplish its mission more practically and more effectively,” James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, said in the statement.

Rules in place since 2008 required the center to “promptly review” data about U.S. residents and “promptly remove” any information that isn’t reasonably believed to be terrorism related according to the statement.

The decision to update the rules was prompted in part by the government’s “limited ability” to access databases after a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and the attempted bombing of an airliner landing in Detroit in 2009, according to the statement.

Changing the retention period “is concerning,” said Michael German, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security policy counsel and a former agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“There are very good reasons for having those rules,” German said in a phone interview. “It protects the rights of Americans to be free from intrusive surveillance, particularly by the intelligence agencies and military that are supposed to be focused on foreign threats.”

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