Privacy Oversight Board Turns Its Sights On The Real Problem: Executive Order 12333

from the about-time dept

We’ve written plenty of times about the dangers of Executive Order 12333, which is the Presidential order signed by Ronald Reagan that gives the NSA tremendously broad powers of surveillance, so long as the work is done overseas. And as long as information is collected overseas, it is used to spy on many Americans. Senators Wyden and Udall have implied that Executive Order 12333 enables the CIA to get around prohibitions on spying on Americans, and just last week a (recent) former top State Department Official, John Napier Tye, revealed that the real surveillance powers happen under Executive Order 12333 — and the other programs we’ve all been debating (Section 702 and Section 215) are merely used to “backfill” what can’t be collected under EO12333.

The Washington Post has now revealed that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is turning its attention to EO 12333 — which is important. Unlike Sections 215 and 702, Congress doesn’t (currently) have any oversight over activities done under EO 12333. Basically, there is no oversight at all. The Congressional intelligence committees have flat out admitted that they receive no reports concerning the kind of surveillance done under that authority, as it’s not under their mandate. The Washington Post has also published a graphic from the Snowden files, that highlights how EO 12333 is the main surveillance program, and everything else is just the exception. It’s a “decision tree” where the focus is on using EO 12333 for as much as possible and only resorting to other programs if absolutely forced to:

It will be interesting to see what the PCLOB is allowed to learn, and then what it’s able to do in response. The PCLOB did a fantastic report slamming the (il)legality and (un)constitutionality of Section 215, but was unfortunately weak in its analysis of the Section 702 program. One hopes that the level of analysis given to EO 12333 will be similar to the former, rather than the latter.

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Comments on “Privacy Oversight Board Turns Its Sights On The Real Problem: Executive Order 12333”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Don't hold your breath

One hopes that the level of analysis given to EO 12333 will be similar to the former, rather than the latter.

After refusing to act like they were supposed to for the 215 report, I imagine those that put them there had a nice little ‘talk’ with the members of the ‘oversight board’, reminding them just what they were supposed to be doing, hence the much more compliant 702 report.

Anonymous Coward says:

I wish the PCLOB had teeth

I wish the PCLOB could do more than give recommendations. I wish they could make arrests, issue subpoenas, request warrants, pursue charges/suits, and offer immunity to any whistleblowers that want to give them extra info.
I suppose that’s what the Inspector Generals are supposed to be able to do. But I don’t get the impression they are as independent as they are supposed to be.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: I wish the PCLOB had teeth

The Accountability Office is 100% accountable, citizen.
It says so right in the Truth-Speak(tm) name.
How you could not understand that is a failure on your part, citizen ? You only need to be re-educated to conform to approved Right-Thought(tm) processes, citizen.
Please, don’t resist, citizen, it will only make your Freedom-Enhancing(tm) confinement more stringent!

Anonymous Coward says:

Pretty much the whole chart is a bogus depiction designed to give a false sense of security to US citizens.

All that has to be done to bypass every check or balance is send the questionable email/message/internet phone call/communications through a loop that bounces off foreign soil, even if it originates within the US and is domestic in nature. It then qualifies for EO 12333.

Whatever (profile) says:

Most discussion of executive orders in this situation come from the very congress critters who are unwilling to deal with all of the rest of the issues that are actually within their control.

Even the graphic shows eo12333 as the “end” of the line, not a first choice discussion. There are plenty of other places where the members of congress could pass laws which would outlaw or make much more difficult the things that they seem to object to, yet they seem totally unwilling to do it.

This situation looks more like “try to make the President look bad” than actually dealing with the issues at hand. Similarly, efforts to “defund” things rather than actually dealing with the laws that enable them are similar in nature. It’s not about fixing it, it’s about trying to assign blame. That never gets anything accomplished.

Lars (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree with most of that, but I have to point out that the graphic isn’t showing EO12333 “at the end of the line”. What it’s showing you is that EO12333 is the default, and you check that you can’t/don’t have to surveille the target under sections 215 or 702 first. Essentially, EO12333 is the first/preferred choice, not the choice of last resort.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If you removed all of the other laws and ways that they do what they do, then yes, it would be what happens. However, recinding this order wouldn’t change much for all the cases that fall under the laws passed by congress themselves.

Getting after the President for an executive order while ignoring the mess create by your own compatriots in the senate and house is a pure political play, and not an attempt to fix anything. They don’t want a fix, they just want to tie blame to the President so they can act morally offended.

Note too that the executive order thing is a current Republican whipping tool, it’s their current crying towel for just about everything. They are incredibly obstructionist, and then get upset when the President does things without them. It’s a perfect example of why they should never be let to run the country again, ever!

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