A training document released in response to a civil liberties organization's lawsuit and obtained by The Huffington Post reveals that the government considers an "analyst's wisdom" the ultimate arbiter of whether data on American citizens can be classified as "terrorist information" and retained forever.
"Only a CT (counter-terrorism) analyst can determine whether data constitutes terrorism information," the electronic training course for new National Counterterrorism Center analysts states. "There is no requirement that the analyst's wisdom be rock solid or infallible."
The document, identified by its introduction as a "rules of the road" course on data access and use, is marked "SECRET." But it was released in a significantly redacted form to the Electronic Privacy Information Center under a Freedom of Information Act request on Tuesday, in response to a lawsuit filed in August 2012.
The training course is a novel window into the thought processes of analysts for the NCTC, which was created by President George W. Bush in 2003 in response to recommendations from 9/11 Commission. The NCTC is supposed to connect the dots on potential terrorist threats to the United States by combining information from other agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security.