Glenn Greenwald: Low-Level NSA Analysts Have ‘Powerful and Invasive’ Search Tool

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“It’s an incredibly powerful and invasive tool, exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described,” Greenwald said.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and House Intelligence leaders have previously downplayed Snowden’s access to NSA data. Greenwald said the revelation of this search capability deserves a response from NSA officials when they testify before Congress again this week.

Glenn Greenwald Low-Level NSA Analysts Have ‘Powerful and Invasive’ Search Tool

“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,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald, who will join via video-link a separate bipartisan congressional group hearing from critics of the NSA’s surveillance programs on Wednesday, called on lawmakers to push for more information about the NSA’s practices.

“The real issue here is that what the NSA does is done in complete secrecy. Nobody really monitors who they are eavesdropping on,” Greenwald said. “So the question of abuse is one that the Congress ought to be investigating much more aggressively.”

Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked information about two sweeping intelligence programs, has previously warned that they are open to abuse by those with access. In a video interview with The Guardian, he said, “Any analyst at any time can target anyone… I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email.”

Snowden has been holed up in a Moscow airport for weeks. He is currently attempting to secure temporary asylum in Russia on the grounds that he would be tortured or face the death penalty if he returned to the United States.

Attorney General Eric Holder responded to Snowden’s appeal last week, writing in a letter to the Russian government, “These claims are entirely without merit.”

Today, Greenwald told Stephanopoulos that Snowden’s petition is still pending, but the former NSA contractor prefers that the focus be elsewhere.

“I think he’s content with having nothing happen so the focus isn’t on him, but is on the substance of the revelations that he came forward to shine light on,” Greenwald said.

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