The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a series of internal papers from intelligence agencies including the NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency detailing how integral Reagan’s 1981 order is to the NSA’s current surveillance program. The order broadly allows the government to collect data from any company that is believed to have ties to foreign organizations. It also complicates the path forward for intelligence reforms in Congress.
Previous reports acknowledge the order’s use as a foundation for some of the NSA’s surveillance programs such as gaining backdoor access to tech companies’ data centers. But the new documents, which were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the ACLU and other civil liberties advocates filed just before Edward Snowden’s leaks to the media, show Executive Order 12333 is the “primary source” authority when it comes to the NSA’s foreign spy programs.