In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s acquisition of Verizon customers’ records, described his report and the revolt of members of Congress over their incapacity to supervise the program.
Greenwald emphasized the uniqueness of the court order because it is not aimed at any specific individual, but rather at every one of the service’s subscribers.
“It is a government program designed to collect information about all Americans,” Greenwald said. He asked the question haunting many minds: “Why was this court order that we obtained marked top secret and closely guarded? It doesn’t harm national security for us to know about it. We should have this debate in the open.”
Greenwald was dismissive of a government official’s claim that the program is serving its purpose by blocking terrorist plots. “Why aren’t they going to the court and specifically naming those people and giving information to the court to let the court know that they’re actually engaged in wrongdoing?” he asked.
Greenwald also asserted that members of Congress are not satisfied with the oversight they have over the programs: “These are Democratic senators, who are loyal to President Obama and their party, who have spent years now saying, ‘Please listen to us. What the Obama administration is doing in interpreting the Patriot Act is so warped and distorted and it vests themselves with such extreme surveillance powers over the United States and American citizens that Americans, in their words, would be stunned to learn what the Obama administration is doing.’”
President Obama has asserted that Congress and the FISA court have full oversight of the data-mining program, as well as the internet spy program PRISM, which allows the NSA to tap into user data on Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, and other tech companies. The president also claims that the programs do not include actually tapping into phone call content.