ACLU Sues Big Brother
MANHATTAN (CN) - The ACLU sued the National Security Agency, the CIA, and the Departments of Defense, Justice and State for information on Executive Order 12,333 - a Dec. 4, 1981 order which is the principal "source of authority" for the government's electronic surveillance not covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
"EO 12,333, signed on December 4, 1981 and modified numerous times since, is the principal source of authority for electronic surveillance that does not fall within the scope of FISA," the federal complaint states. "Whereas FISA applies primarily to surveillance conducted on American soil or to surveillance abroad that targets Americans, EO 12,333 appears to be the sole authority for and limitation on government surveillance abroad that targets foreigners. Unlike surveillance conducted pursuant to FISA, surveillance undertaken solely pursuant to EO 12,333 is not overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
"Although EO 12,333 permits the government to target foreigners abroad for surveillance, recent revelations have confirmed that the government interprets that authority to permit sweeping monitoring of Americans' international communications. How the government conducts this surveillance, and whether it appropriately accommodates the constitutional rights of American citizens and residents whose communications are intercepted in the course of that surveillance, are matters of great public significance and concern. While the government has released several documents describing the rules that govern its collection and use of Americans' international communications under statutory authorities regulating surveillance on U.S. soil, little information is publicly available regarding the rules that apply to surveillance of Americans' international calls and emails under EO 12,333.
"That gap in public knowledge is particularly troubling in light of recent revelations, which make clear that the NSA is collecting vast quantities of data worldwide pursuant to EO 12,333. For instance, recent news reports indicate that, relying on the executive order, the NSA is collecting: nearly 5 billion records per day on the location of cell phones, including Americans' cell phones; hundreds of millions of contact lists or address books from personal email and instant messaging accounts; and information from Google and Yahoo user accounts as that information travels between those companies' data centers located abroad.
"Surveillance under EO 12,333 inevitably sweeps up the communications of U.S. persons. This FOIA request seeks, in part, to determine what protections are afforded to those U.S. persons and whether those protections are consistent with the Constitution."
On May 23 the ACLU requested records on "any records construing or interpreting the scope of (the defendants') authority to act under Executive Order 12,333, and any regulations issued thereunder," and any regulations or standards they have on "collection," "acquisition" or "interception" of communications, under the order.
The ACLU is represented by staff attorney Alex Abdo.