The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald on Monday blasted NSA director Keith Alexander, citing a Washington Post profile Sunday highlighting the general’s desire to “collect the whole haystack” when gathering intelligence on the citizens of the United States.
The Post details how Alexander’s approach stems from his experiences in Iraq:
At the time, more than 100 teams of U.S. analysts were scouring Iraq for snippets of electronic data that might lead to the bomb-makers and their hidden factories. But the NSA director, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, wanted more than mere snippets. He wanted everything: Every Iraqi text message, phone call and e-mail that could be vacuumed up by the agency’s powerful computers.
“Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, his approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’ ” said one former senior U.S. intelligence official who tracked the plan’s implementation. “Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”
Greenwald wrote “there’s no legal authority for the NSA to do this,” and noted former NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake told the Post “the continuation of Alexander’s policies … would result in the ‘complete evisceration of our civil liberties.’”
The NSA is constantly seeking to expand its capabilities without limits. They’re currently storing so much, and preparing to store so much more, that they have to build a massive, sprawling new facility in Utah just to hold all the communications from inside the US and around the world that they are collecting – communications they then have the physical ability to invade any time they want (“Collect it all, tag it, store it. . . . And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it”).
That is the definition of a ubiquitous surveillance state – and it’s been built in the dark, without the knowledge of the American people or people around the world, even though it’s aimed at them. How anyone could think this should have all remained concealed – that it would have been better had it just been left to fester and grow in the dark – is truly mystifying.
Greenwald appeared on many news sites over the weekend and decried the U.S. government and its response to the leaks by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald told Argentina’s La Nacion that “Snowden has enough information to cause more harm to the U.S. government in a single minute than any other person has ever had in the history of the United States.”
NBC News writer Becky Bratu wrote about the La Nacion article, saying that while Snowden has asked for temporary asylum in Russia until he can secure passage to South America, he has already taken steps to elude capture.
He told the newspaper that Snowden has already distributed thousands of documents and has made sure several people around the world have all the files he possesses.
“If anything were to happen to him, those documents would be made public,” Greenwald said. “That’s his insurance policy.”
“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day praying that nothing happens to Snowden, because if something happens to him, all the information would be revealed and that would be its worst nightmare,” he added.
In an interview with his former employer Salon, Greenwald reiterated how the NSA allegedly misrepresented itself to the public; he says he thinks there will be fallout despite how “Washington has proven, over and over, that they’re not bothered by the fact that what they’re doing and thinking is completely at odds with mass sentiments of the public that they pretend to represent.”
I think that ultimately the real issue is the top levels of the Obama administration repeatedly went to Congress and lied to the faces of Congress, which is a felony, over what these NSA programs were and weren’t. And ultimately, I think the first step is going to have to be, are we willing to tolerate having top-level Obama officials blatantly lie to our representatives in Congress and prevent them from exercising oversight about these spying programs? And that, I think, has to be the first scandal to show that there are actually consequences for this behavior.
In other privacy news, the Department of Justice announced on Friday it will begin restricting guidelines for the subpoena of reporter phone records in the future, following revelations that Associated Press and Fox News reporters’ phone records were obtained without their knowledge. The AP’s Pete Yost wrote the department will create a News Media Review Committee to advise officials in the future.
The government also must give notice of a subpeona request, unless the attorney general explicitly determines “such notice would pose a clear and substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.” Furthermore, search warrants for reporter emails can only be issued when the journalist “is the focus of a criminal investigation for conduct not connected to ordinary newsgathering activities.”
President Obama had set July 12 as the deadline for Attorney General Eric Holder to review the policies and submit the department’s findings.