Meet John Tye: The Kinder, Gentler, and by-the-Book Whistleblower
“Incidental collection”—memorize that phrase.
The way John Tye tells it, we’ve all been missing the forest for the trees.
Over the course of two phone calls, the former State Department official told Ars that anyone who has been following the government surveillance discussion since the Snowden disclosures has been too concerned with things like metadata collection. Since last summer, journalists, politicians, and the public have been inundated with largely-unknown terminology, like “Section 215” and “Section 702.”
(For a recap: The first disclosure to come from the documents provided by Snowden described the bulk metadata programs, whose legal authority derives from Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the legal authority which the NSA uses as the basis for PRISM and other surveillance and data collection programs.)
But according to Tye, what we should be really worried about is Executive Order 12333 (EO 12333)—or “twelve triple three” in government parlance. It’s a Reagan-era order that spells out the NSA’s authority to conduct signals intelligence among other things. EO 12333 was amended three times under President George W. Bush and, famously, the NSA expanded its domestic surveillance operation after the September 11 attacks without a direct order from the president, who later provided cover under EO 12333. […]