July 20, 2017

Wyden Asks DOJ How Often the Government Searches for Americans’ Communications Under E.O. 12333

Collection Intended to Monitor Foreigners Can be Searched for Information on Americans

Washington, D.C. –Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today asked the Department of Justice a series of questions about how it uses Executive Order 12333 to conduct warrantless backdoor searches of Americans’ calls, emails and other communications.

Specifically, Wyden asked:

  1. How many times, in each of the calendar years 2011-2016, has the Attorney General provided this approval?
  2. Can the Intelligence Community conduct these searches “for the purpose of targeting a U.S. person or a person in the United States” without an individual warrant?
  3. What limitations and approval requirements would apply to searches for communications that are reasonably likely to be to, from, or about a U.S. person or a person located in the United States if the purpose of the search is not to “target” that person?

Read the full letter here.

Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a staunch advocate of the principle that liberty and security are not mutually exclusive, and consistently pushed back against overreach by the federal government on surveillance.

Wyden has pressed intelligence leaders for years to disclose how many Americans’ communications are swept up under a separate surveillance program, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Wyden and former Sen. Mark Udall originally asked for this number in 2011. He renewed his request in 2012, and pushed the executive branch to reveal in 2014 that the NSA, CIA and FBI search for Americans’ communications without obtaining a warrant.