civil liberty

Demystifying Executive Order 12333

Demystifying Executive Order 12333

The Senate begins debate this month on renewal of the FISA Amendments Act, particularly Section 702, which authorizes our intelligence agencies to access the communications of foreign terrorists from a U.S. company with a valid court order.  Congressional debates and media analysis of the laws that govern electronic surveillance frequently cite—and mischaracterize—Executive Order 12333, the framework by which presidents of both parties have organized the worldwide activities of U.S. intelligence for more than three decades.  This paper outlines the history and main features of E.O. 12333 and describes the significant constraints it imposes on U.S. intelligence as well as the safeguards for Americans’ civil liberties that have always been part of its fabric.