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The White House has signed off on new guidelines that will allow counterterrorism officials to keep information about U.S. residents for an extended period of time, even if they have never been linked to any terrorism group or act, the Washington Post reports.
The changes, approved by the Obama administration on Thursday, will permit the National Counterterrorism Center to hold information for up to five year rather than the previous 180 days allowed unless a connection to terrorism was evident. National intelligence officials had argued that the existing rules were overly limiting and that the extension will allow them to better do their jobs.
"On Day One, you may look at something and think that it has nothing to do with terrorism. Then six months later, all of a sudden, it becomes relevant," said Robert Litt, the general counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NCTC.
Civil liberties advocates, however, are voicing concerns that the relaxed restrictions amount to an invasion of privacy. "There are very good reasons for having those rules," Michael German, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security policy counsel and a former FBI agent, told Bloomberg. "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."