Ronald Reagan issued Executive Order 12333 in 1981, reversing the Carter and Ford reforms of government surveillance (sparked by the Church Commission, convened in the wake of Nixon's wiretapping scandal); GWB expanded it twice more, once during each term. This order is the legal cover and excuse deployed internally by spy agencies when they break the law and violate the Constitution. In Ars Technica, Cyrus Farivar tracks down many internal memors, and statements from a wide variety of ex-spies, including the famous NSA whistleblowers Bill Binney and Thomas Drake, to paint a vivid picture of how 12333 is the all-purpose excuse for any kind of funny business. Farivar also notes that Snowden asked several pointed questions about 12333, without getting any kind of satisfactory answers, before he left the NSA, taking many damning documents with him.
We'll be paying for this actor's cowboy ways for decades more to come.