ODNI: updated NCTC guidelines include privacy and civil liberty protections

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New guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center are in place that should safeguard civil liberties and protect privacy, according to an information paper (.pdf) released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The ODNI paper states that the updated guidelines "carry forward the same three-track framework from the 2008 Guidelines, while adding specificity on how data is obtained, retained, and disseminated, and providing for enhanced safeguards and oversight mechanisms to protect important privacy and civil liberties."

Specifically, the guidelines "prohibit access, acquisition, retention, use, or dissemination of U.S. person information solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other legal rights," states the paper.  

The paper further asserts that the National Counterterrorism Center is subject to the oversight of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and must keep the intelligence committees in Congress fully and currently informed of its activities. In addition, ODNI points out that the new guidelines provide that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will have access to all relevant National Counterterrorism Center material and will have the opportunity to conduct oversight in accordance with its statutory mission.

The role of the National Counterterrorism Center is to integrate and analyze all intelligence possessed or acquired by the United States Government pertaining to terrorism, and to ensure that all agencies with a counterterrorism mission have access to that intelligence to perform their duties. Part of ODNI, the Center is responsible for national and international counterterrorism efforts, drawing experts from the CIA, FBI, DoD and other agencies.

The updated guidelines argue that information is "reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information" if it is "based on the knowledge and experience of counterterrorism analysts as well as the factual and practical considerations of everyday life on which reasonable and prudent persons act."

According to a blog post by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Attorney General Eric Holder in March 2012 approved an updated version of the guidelines allowing the National Counterterrorism Center to copy databases across the federal government for retention for up to five years. 

In response, EPIC filed a FOIA lawsuit to uncover, among other things, "any data accuracy and security safeguard documentation that covered the updated Guidelines," EPIC's blog states.The ODNI paper "comes about six months after EPIC filed suit for more details about the program," the civil liberties organization asserts. EPIC expects ODNI to furnish its final FOIA-related documents on February 12.

For more:
-read the ODNI paper (.pdf)
-read the EPIC blog

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