Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post
March 22, 2012

The Justice Department has approved guidelines that allow counterterrorism officials to lengthen the period of time they retain information about U.S. residents, even if they have no known connection to terrorism.

Senior U.S. officials familiar with the guidelines said the changes allow the National Counterterrorism Center, the intelligence community’s clearinghouse for terrorism data, to keep such information for up to five years. Currently, the center must promptly destroy any information about U.S. citizens or residents unless a connection to terrorism is evident.

The new guidelines, which were approved Thursday, have been in the works for more than a year, said officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The guidelines are likely to prompt concern from privacy advocates. Senior Justice Department officials said, however, that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. worked to ensure that privacy protections were adequate. Among other provisions, agencies that share data with the NCTC may now negotiate to have the data held for shorter periods.

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