US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] signed new guidelines [text] on Thursday for the use of information not related to terrorism activities by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) [official website]. The NCTC is permitted to gather data on American citizens to search for "terrorism information" which it can keep permanently. One of the significant provisions of the new guidelines expand the time limit that the NCTC may hold "non-terrorism information" from 180 days to five years. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] renounced the guidelines, and said [statement]:
The decades-old rules limiting the collection and retention of US citizen and resident information by the intelligence community and the military existed for a very good reason: to ensure that the powerful tools designed to protect us from foreign enemies are not turned against Americans. Authorizing the "temporary" retention of non-terrorism related citizen and resident information for five years essentially removes the restraint against wholesale collection of our personal information by the government, and puts all Americans at risk of unjustified scrutiny.The ACLU pointed out that this expansion appears to be similar to the Total Information Awareness [JURIST news archive] project planned and abandoned under then-president George W. Bush in 2003.
In September the ACLU released a report [JURIST report] claiming that the US has been diminishing its "core values" with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks [JURIST backgrounder]. One practice that the ACLU report criticized was the government's practice of using cell phone location data to track individuals suspected of terroristic or criminal acts. The ACLU is currently involved in litigation and investigations pertaining to requests for information filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] regarding the Department of Justice's (DOJ) [official website] use of this practice. The ACLU also supports the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act [materials], introduced to Congress in June of 2011, which would require government agencies to obtain a probable cause warrant before seeking location data. In March 2010, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court [official website, in German] overturned [JURIST report] a law requiring telecommunications providers to store information on telephone calls, e-mails, and Internet use for six months for use in possible terrorism investigations, citing privacy issues.