The NY Times tells us of an expansion in the government anti-terror databases:
U.S. Relaxes Limits on Use of Data in Terror Analysis
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Thursday signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center, which was created in 2004 to foster intelligence sharing and serve as a terrorism threat clearinghouse.
The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them” using complex algorithms to search for patterns that could indicate a threat.
Civil libertarians are worried but they hve yet to darken the skies with leaps from ledges, as would have happened under Evil BushCo:
“We’re all in the dark, and for all we know it could be a rerun of Total Information Awareness, which would have allowed the government to make a computerized database of everything on everybody,” said Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, who criticized the administration for not making the draft guidelines public for scrutiny ahead of time.
And there is logic behind this:
Intelligence officials offered a hypothetical scenario to explain one way the change could be helpful: A person from Yemen applies for a visa and lists an American as a point of contact. There is no sign that either person is a terrorist. Two years later, another person from Yemen applies for a visa and lists the same American, and this second person is a suspected terrorist.
Under the existing system, they said, to discover that the first visa applicant now had a known tie to a suspected terrorist, an analyst would have to ask the State Department to check its database to see if the American’s name had come up on anyone else’s visa application — a step that could be overlooked or cause a delay. Under the new rules, a computer could instantly alert analysts of the connection.
Critics will surely come up with hypothetical abuses, especially if a Republican wins the White House.