The objective of the United States National Security Agency is to eliminate privacy around the world, the American writer who helped expose the NSA's far-reaching surveillance powers said on Tuesday.
Glenn Greenwald of the UK's Guardian answered questions about the ongoing NSA leaks and his source, the now notorious former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, during an online question-and-answer session held Tuesday on the website Reddit.
Greenwald is among the pool of writers who have analyzed and reported on leaks attributed to Snowden since unauthorized disclosures first surfaced in June of this year detailing the otherwise largely unknown operations of the US intelligence community.
Since then, Snowden's documents have shown how the US government collects phone records for millions of Americans, compiles the Internet habits of innocent citizens and an array of other activity that has caused international backlash abroad and prompted lawmakers in the States to propose legislation aimed at reforming the NSA.
Nearly four months after those leaks began, Greenwald told Reddit on Tuesday that he believes in his opinion that people around the world now have "a basic idea of the objective of the NSA: to eliminate privacy worldwide, literally, by ensuring that every human electronic communication is subject to being collected, stored, analyzed and monitored by the NSA and its allies."
Asked by a participant during the Reddit "Ask Me Anything" segment to explain what he thought was the single most shocking revelation to come from Snowden's leaks, Greenwald responded that the actual abilities of the NSA as detailed through those disclosures was what he considered to personally be the biggest takeaway.
"The general revelation that the objective of the NSA is literally the elimination of global privacy: ensuring that every form of human electronic communication -- not just those of The Terrorists -- is collected, stored, analyzed and monitored," he said.
Greenwald's remark echoed the words of NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander, who only last week told a Senate panel that he believed it was in the nation's best interest to collect everyone's telephone records, regardless of any pending investigations, and put them all into a "lockbox."
"The NSA has so radically misled everyone for so long about its true purpose that revealing its actual institutional function was shocking to many, many people, and is the key context for understanding these other specific revelations," Greenwald told the Reddit crowd.
But while the writer expressed discontent with the intelligence community's honesty with the American public, Greenwald applauded some lawmakers in Washington for an initiative led by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) earlier this year that almost ended in the eradication of those NSA surveillance programs exposed by Snowden.
"The vote in Congress where they came very close to doing something completely unthinkable even 5 months ago -- de-funding a major NSA program, based on an incredible coalition of liberals and conservatives and everything in between -- shows how consequential and enduring these revelations have been. That will keep building," Greenwald said.
The Reddit Q-and-A occurred within a week of the two latest NSA stories published in response to top-secret documents disclosed by Snowden, a 30-year-old former contractor who has since been granted temporary asylum by Russia.
Within just days, leaks attributed to Snowden have been written about in the media detailing how the US intelligence community has been exploiting US citizens' personal information drawn from its large collection of metadata to create complex graphs of social connections for foreign intelligence purposes. Days later, a separate leak reported in the Guardian suggested that the Internet browsing history and other overly broad information about millions of Americans was being collected on a routine basis, regardless if the target was being considered as a player in any sort of crime.
"What Edward Snowden showed more than anything else is that even ordinary individuals have within them great power to stand up to and subvert real injustices by seemingly invulnerable institutions," Greenwald added.
According to the reporter, there have been "thousands of documents" supplied by Snowden, "and the majority of ones that should (and will) be published still remain."
Last month, NSA Chief Technology Officer Lonny Anderson told National Public Radio that the NSA has "an extremely good idea of exactly what data" Snowden accessed, as well as how he went about obtaining it.