U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga) said on “This Week” this Sunday that he would be “shocked” if former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations that even low level NSA officials have the ability to wiretap anyone living in U.S., including the President, were correct.
“It wouldn’t just surprise me, it would shock me,” Chambliss told ABC New’s George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week.” “I was back out at NSA just last week, spent a couple hours out there with high and low level NSA officials. And 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. In fact we don’t monitor e-mails, that’s what kind of assures me that what the reporting is not correct, because no e-mails are monitored now.”
The reporting by Glenn Greenwald that Chambliss is referring to, however, does not necessarily suggest that emails are being monitored now, but that the emails that have been stored when the program allowed it are still accessible.
Greenwald, the journalist who broke Snowden’s story and columnist for “The Guardian,” also appeared on This Week and said his investigation supports Snowden’s claims.
“The way that I know exactly what analysts have the capability to do when spying on Americans is the story I’ve been working on for the last month that we’re publishing this week very clearly sets forth what these programs are, that NSA analysts, low-level ones, not just ones who work for the NSA but private contractors like Mr. Snowden, are able to do,” said Greenwald. “The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years. And what 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. 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. And 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.”
The wire-tapping claim was denied by intelligence officials, and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers.
Chambliss said that “a healthy debate” on the NSA surveillance programs is necessary, but he also emphasized that the programs in question have more oversight than any other in the intelligence community.
“And we have got oversight now of this program, both by the Department of Justice, by NSA, by the FISA court, by the intelligence committees, by the Judiciary Committee,” he said.
The Georgia senator said that a priority should be placed on finding a balance between protecting Americans’ safety and protecting their privacy “100 percent.”
“We should never invade any American citizen’s privacy,” said Chambliss.