Glenn Greenwald of the UK’s Guardian answered questions about the
ongoing NSA leaks and his source, the now notorious former
intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, during an online
question-and-answer session held Tuesday on the website Reddit.
Greenwald is among the pool of writers who have analyzed and
reported on leaks attributed to Snowden since unauthorized
disclosures first surfaced in June of this year detailing the
otherwise largely unknown operations of the US intelligence
Since then, Snowden’s documents have shown how the US government
collects phone records for millions of Americans,
compiles the Internet habits of innocent citizens and an array of
other activity that has caused international backlash abroad and
prompted lawmakers in the States to propose legislation aimed at
reforming the NSA.
Nearly four months after those leaks began, Greenwald told Reddit
on Tuesday that he believes in his opinion that people around the
world now have “a basic idea of the objective of the NSA: to
eliminate privacy worldwide, literally, by ensuring that every
human electronic communication is subject to being collected,
stored, analyzed and monitored by the NSA and its allies.”
Asked by a participant during the Reddit “Ask Me Anything”
segment to explain what he thought was the single most shocking
revelation to come from Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald responded that
the actual abilities of the NSA as detailed through those
disclosures was what he considered to personally be the biggest
“The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is
literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every
form of human electronic communication – not just those of The
Terrorists™ – is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored,”
Greenwald’s remark echoed the words of NSA Director Gen. Keith
Alexander, who only last week told a Senate panel that he
believed it was in the nation’s best interest to collect
everyone’s telephone records, regardless of any pending
investigations, and put them all into a “lockbox.”
“The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about
its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function
was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for
understanding these other specific revelations,” Greenwald
told the Reddit crowd.
But while the writer expressed discontent with the intelligence
community’s honesty with the American public, Greenwald applauded
some lawmakers in Washington for an initiative led by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan)
earlier this year that almost ended in the eradication of those
NSA surveillance programs exposed by Snowden.
“The vote in Congress where they came very close to doing
something completely unthinkable even 5 months ago – de-funding a
major NSA program, based on an incredible coalition of liberals
and conservatives and everything in between – shows how
consequential and enduring these revelations have been. That will
keep building,” Greenwald said.
The Reddit Q-and-A occurred within a week of the two latest NSA
stories published in response to top-secret documents disclosed
by Snowden, a 30-year-old former contractor who has since been
granted temporary asylum by Russia.
Within just days, leaks attributed to Snowden have been written
about in the media detailing how the US intelligence community
has been exploiting US citizens’ personal information drawn from
its large collection of metadata to create complex graphs of
social connections for foreign intelligence purposes. Days later,
a separate leak reported in the Guardian suggested that the
Internet browsing history and other overly broad information
about millions of Americans was being collected on a routine
basis, regardless of if the target was being considered as a
player in any sort of crime.
“What Edward Snowden showed more than anything else is that
even ordinary individuals have within them great power to stand
up to and subvert real injustices by seemingly invulnerable
institutions,” Greenwald added.
According to the reporter, there have been “thousands of
documents” supplied by Snowden, “and the majority of ones
that should (and will) be published still remain.”
Last month, NSA Chief Technology Officer Lonny Anderson told
National Public Radio that the NSA has “an extremely good idea
of exactly what data” Snowden accessed, as well as how
he went about obtaining it.
Snowden was employed by contractor Booz Allen Hamilton until he
fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, earlier this year. He is wanted
in the US for espionage and other charges.