By Laura Cox
PUBLISHED: 19:39 EST, 23 March 2012 | UPDATED: 19:43 EST, 23 March 2012
Information about innocent Americans could be stored by the intelligence community for up to five years.
New Obama administration guidelines will allow the National Counterterrorism Centre to hang on to information about people that is stored in other government databases, even when they have no clear links to terrorism.
They replace guidelines issued in 2008 under which the NCTC was required to immediately destroy the data in such situations.
In a statement, the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, said: ‘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.
‘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.’
But the move has spiked fear among privacy advocates who are concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center told Fox News that the change in policy undercuts the Federal Privacy Act.
‘The fact that this data can be retained for five years on U.S. citizens for whom there’s no evidence of criminal conduct is very disturbing,’ he said.
The Obama administration said the new rules come with strong safeguards for privacy and civil liberties as well.
Before the NCTC may obtain data held by another government agency, there is a high-level review to assure that the data are ‘likely to contain significant terrorism information,’ Alexander Joel, civil liberties protection officer at the National Intelligence Directorate, said in a news release Thursday.
The NCTC was created after the September 11 attacks to be the central U.S. organization to analyse and integrate intelligence regarding terrorism.