Despite the success of last year’s surveillance reform legislation (the “USA FREEDOM Act”), the U.S. retains the ability to collect millions of Americans’ phone calls and e-mails without a warrant—and without any oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—under Executive Order 12333 (EO 12333). The order generally governs the interception of electronic communications overseas, but a new report suggests that its broad scope has significant implications for Americans.
Under EO 12333, the National Security Agency (NSA) engages in “bulk collection” overseas. In a different era, such surveillance might not have affected Americans very much. But in today’s digital world, Americans’ communications are routinely routed and stored abroad, making them vulnerable to NSA surveillance. While EO 12333 practices remain shrouded in secrecy, publicly available guidelines indicate that there are very few constraints on how the government uses Americans’ communications and data swept up in overseas collection.
In an effort to address some of the questions raised by EO 12333 surveillance, Just Security and the Brennan Center for Justice hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill on March 17th. Panelists included Rebecca Richards, the National Security Agency’s Director of the Office of Civil Liberties and Privacy; Amos Toh, the Legal Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; Neema Singh Guliani, Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union; Deborah Pearlstein, Associate Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law; and Harlan Yu, Principal at Upturn.
The event was widely attended by senior congressional staff and offered an opportunity to engage in a fascinating legal discussion. Video of the event is available here.