Four Members of Congress Join Dozens of Organizations to Urge President Obama to Limit Mass Surveillance Under Executive Order 12333

Washington, D.C. – Access has convened a coalition of digital rights groups to urge the Obama Administration to reform Executive Order 12333, which authorizes mass surveillance by NSA and other intelligence agencies with no meaningful limits. In a letter to the president and to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, the group also called for the declassification of current and future legal opinions interpreting this sweeping surveillance authority.

President Obama has the power to unilaterally change this Executive Order to stop the bulk collections of millions of users’ data, and thereby align U.S. surveillance practices more closely with international norms and law.

The signers include four Members of Congress, including Representatives John Conyers, Alan Grayson, Rush Holt, and Zoe Lofgren; dozens of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Human Rights Watch; and former government officials John Tye (former U.S. State Dept.), Ed Felton (former FTC Chief Technologist), and Ian Schuler (former U.S. State Dept.).

“For decades, the NSA and other intelligence agencies have been spying on millions of users without any meaningful limits,” said Access Senior Policy Counsel Amie Stepanovich. “The president can and must stop these gross violations of our rights that continue without any oversight or accountability.”

Executive Order 12333 allows intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance that profoundly violates the basic rights of internet users in the U.S. and abroad. Unlike Section 215 of the Patriot Act, this Reagan-era policy not only allows for the bulk collection of metadata, but also the content of our communications — all via secret interpretations of a decades-old executive order.

“Secret laws are a threat to American democracy,” continued Stepanovich. “Access will continue to work with its partners to make public the legal interpretations concerning surveillance under E.O. 12333, and to implement real privacy protections for users affected by activities conducted under the order.”