FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWashington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today expressed concern regarding significant new changes made to a previously existing executive order governing the intelligence activities of a multitude of US government agencies, including the FBI, CIA, Defense Department and National Security Agency (NSA). President Bush signed amendments to Executive Order 12333 last night before informing Congress of the changes. The ACLU applauded members of the House Intelligence Committee who walked out of a briefing today in protest of their lack of involvement in drafting the language.
“It seems like our spy agencies are getting more and more into the business of spying on Americans rather than foreign agents,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The complete lack of consultation with Congress on these sweeping changes is yet another example of this administration’s disregard for checks and balances. This order is simply the latest in a series of measures taken by the Bush administration that undermine our basic assumption as Americans that our government doesn’t monitor our behavior without a reason. We have secret laws governing secret agencies that are engaging in secret spying against Americans, and they're using our own tax dollars to do it. This isn't keeping us safer – it's only making all Americans suspects in the eyes of the government."
The Bush administration previously amended the executive order in 2004, and the changes announced today make clear that the intelligence community is no longer focused on foreign threats as legal protections limiting spying on U.S. persons have once again been weakened.
“The most chilling aspect of this executive order is that the Director of National Intelligence can task any agency of the government to spy on you,” continued Fredrickson. “The next time you’re asked to give information to a government agency or official, you not only won't know where that information might go, you may not even know who's really asking the question in the first place. What effect these changes ultimately will have is unclear because the Department of Justice has previously issued a secret legal opinion saying the President does not have to follow executive orders. This kind of concentrated power, exercised in secret, is a lit fuse with our Constitution likely in danger of being burned.”