The National Counterterrorism Center was granted license on Thursday by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to retain Americans’ data for up to five years, even if the subjects in question are not suspected of having ties to terrorism.
Created in 2004, the center’s mission is to serve as a data pool for the nation’s national security apparatus, facilitating the rapid sharing of information for agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland and others.
It was previously authorized, in rules issued by the Bush Administration, to retain data on American citizens for a maximum of 180 days. The Obama Administration’s order Thursday, first covered by The New York Times, expands that time dramatically.
The type of data collected at the National Counterterrorism Center may seem mundane to many, but proponents say advanced computer algorithms are capable of connecting seemingly unrelated points of data — like credit card transactions, phone calls, text messages, emails and travel itineraries — that may help identify secret terrorist cells.
It is still not entirely clear what databases the center has access to.
Read the new guidelines here (PDF).