Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s phone and internet surveillance programs, on Monday disputed claims that the leaks threatened national security.
Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former NSA contractor, shared details on the agency's call tracking program and another program called PRISM, which gathers Internet data on foreign citizens suspected of terror links.
The disclosures sparked a debate over the proper balance between national security and civil liberties.
Many lawmakers, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), have defended the NSA program, saying it has been directly responsible for thwarting terrorist attacks and that the leak of the classified information jeopardizes national security.
Over the weekend, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the national security leaks would endanger American lives.
The Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into the leak of the classified information, and Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism, called for the prosecution of Snowden, who on Sunday publicly admitted to leaking the top-secret documents.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Sunday said only that they were assessing the “damage” caused by Snowden’s leaks.
But Greenwald on Monday accused lawmakers of using the threat of terror to scare citizens into giving up their civil liberties.
“The only thing that has been jeopardized is the reputation and credibility of the people in power who are engaged in this massive spying program and wanted to do it in the dark,” he said. “As journalists I think our No. 1 obligation should be to not allow government officials to scream ‘terrorists’ every time there’s transparency brought to them, but instead to scrutinize whether those claims are valid, and there’s not anything that we’ve revealed to the world that can be said to even remotely harm national security.”
James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, has called the leaks "gut-wrenching," and Greenwald taunted him over Twitter on Sunday.
Clapper: leaks "literally gut-wrenching" - "huge, grave damage" - save some melodrama and rhetoric for coming stories. You'll need it.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 9, 2013
Rogers also blasted Greenwald for presenting himself as an expert on the program, saying he doesn't understand the true nature or importance of it.
"He says that he's got it all and now is an expert on this program," Rogers said on ABC's "This Week." "He doesn't have a clue and neither does the person who released just enough information to literally be dangerous."