Former State Department Exec Calls E.O. 12333 a “Legal Loophole” for Spying on Americans

Saturday, July 19, 2014
By Paul Martin

Rainey Reitman
Saturday, July 19, 2014

“What kind of data is the NSA collecting on millions, or hundreds of millions, of Americans?”

That’s the question John Napier Tye, a former State Department section chief for Internet freedom, calls on the government to answer in his powerful op-ed published today by the Washington Post. In it, Tye calls the NSA’s surveillance operations abroad, conducted under Executive Order 12333, a threat to American democracy, stating that this power “authorizes collection of the content of communications, not just metadata, even for U.S. persons.”

Executive Order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan on December 4, 1981, established rough guidelines for intelligence community activities taken abroad, including the collection of signals intelligence for surveillance purposes.

Although we’ve previously sounded the alarm about government surveillance under E.O. 12333, it received increased public attention in October 2013, when a classified slide provided to the Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden diagramed how the NSA tapped the main communication links of Yahoo and Google data centers around the world. The Washington Post pointed to the authority granted to the NSA under Executive Order 12333, quoting former NSA chief analyst John Schindler who said, “Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers, and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole. It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act].”

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