Glenn Greenwald had a fascinating conversation with George Stephanopolous on ABC’s Sunday morning TV show, This Week in which Greenwald said, at one point,
One of the most amazing parts of this entire episode has been that top-level national security officials like James Clapper really did get caught red-handed lying to the American Congress, which everyone now acknowledges, about what the NSA is doing. And it’s amazing that he not only hasn’t been prosecuted, but still has his job. And what that does is, it lets national security officials continue to lie to the public, which is what happened in that exchange you just referenced.
The way that I know exactly what analysts have the capability to do when they’re spying on Americans is that the story I’ve been working on for the last month that we’re publishing this week very clearly sets forth what these programs are that NSA analysts — low level ones, not just ones who work for the NSA, but private contractors like Mr. Snowden — are able to do. The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years. And what these programs are, are very simple screens like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address and it does two things: it searches a database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered. And it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address of that IP address do in the future.
And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst. There are legal constraints for how you can spy on Americans. You can’t target them without going through the FISA court. But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. It’s an incredibly powerful and invasive tool exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described. And NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday. And I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said.
Two points here. The first is the question of why a public official who lies to Congress has not been suspended, prior to prosecution? The second is whether the NSA officials who are scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday will be asked to respond under oath to Greenwald’s remarks?