Greenwald: Low-level NSA analysts allowed to spy on phone calls

Reporter Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, on Sunday defended prior claims from leaker Edward Snowden that low-level analysts and contractors had access to private communications.

“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years,” Greenwald said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

“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,” Greenwald explained.  “It searches that 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 or that IP address do in the future.

“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,” he added.

Greenwald said that he would publish a new story in the coming week with details on the access given to low-level analysts and contractors. 

Snowden, who leaked classified documents detailing the NSA surveillance programs, said in an interview last month that he had access to private communications of American citizens.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly 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 had said.

But intelligence officials and lawmakers have disputed Snowden and Greenwald’s claims.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said he would be shocked to learn that Snowden and Greenwald’s claims were true, saying they misrepresented the extent of the NSA’s activities. 

“It wouldn't just surprise me, it would shock me,” said Chambliss also appearing on ABC. “What I have been assured of is that there is no capability at NSA for anyone without a court order to listen to any telephone conversation or to monitor any e-mail.”