Late last night, the NY Times broke a very troubling story. Rather than finally putting an end to Executive Order 12333, it appears that President Obama is going to expand the power of it in dangerous ways. We've written about EO 12333 a bunch of times, but for those of you unfamiliar with it, it's an executive order signed by President Reagan that basically gave the NSA pretty free rein to collect signals intelligence outside of the US. Because it's not (technically) about domestic surveillance, what the NSA does under EO 12333 is not subject to Congressional oversight. That is, Congress is mostly as much in the dark as everyone else is on what the NSA is doing overseas. And, as former State Department official John Napier Tye revealed a couple of years ago, for all the talk of domestic surveillance programs revealed by Ed Snowden, the NSA's real power comes almost entirely from 12333.
And it has no limitations. Napier noted that the other programs -- things like Section 215 (now morphed into whatever the USA FREEDOM Act allows) and Section 702 -- were merely used to "fill in the gaps" not covered by 12333.
And it almost certainly involves both foreign and domestic intelligence. Basically, if any of your data goes outside of US boundaries, the NSA is free to capture it under 12333. Remember those stories of the NSA hacking into datacenters of companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft? Those datacenters were in Singapore. And the reason the target was Singapore rather than the US, was because of 12333.