National Security Brief: U.S. Counterterror Agency Has New Spy Powers

The Wall Street Journal reports that the National Counterterrorism Center now has the authority to examine government files of U.S. citizens “for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them.” The Journal notes that the new powers are “a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.” The agency now “can copy entire government databases –flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others” and “has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans ‘reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information’ may be permanently retained.”

In other news:

  • Insider attacks by militants in Afghanistan against their U.S. and NATO counterparts are currently at a lull. The Military Times reports: “November marked the first month in 2012 when no American service members were killed by Afghan security forces, and no attacks have been reported so far in December.”
  • Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Wednesday questioned whether North Korea’s satellite launch was successful and now U.S. officials said the satellite appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth.
  • Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal’s recent assertion that Israel does not have the right to exist. “I don’t agree with Khaled Mashaal’s statement on the non-recognition of Israel because we, in fact, recognized it in 1993,” Abbas told reporters in Turkey. “A four-article agreement between (Fatah and Hamas) stipulates a two-state vision. And Mashaal approved of this agreement.”
  • The Syrian military is now resorting to ballistic missiles in its war against rebel forces as the Russians are saying publicly that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is losing control of the conflict.