It’s been widely reported that the NSA, under the constitutionally suspect authority of Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, collects all Americans’ phone metadata. Congress has not yet passed any reforms to this law, but there have been many proposals for changes and the national debate is still raging. Yet Americans’ data is also being collected under a different program that’s entirely hidden from public oversight, and that was authorized under the Reagan-era Executive Order 12333.
That’s the topic of a TEDx-Charlottesville talk by whistleblower John Napier Tye, entitled “Why I spoke out against the NSA.” Tye objected to NSA surveillance while working in the US State Department. He explains that EO 12333 governs data collected overseas, as opposed to domestic surveillance which is authorized by statute. However, because Americans’ emails and other communications are stored in servers all over the globe, the distinction between domestic and international surveillance is much less salient than when the order was originally given by President Reagan in 1981.