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Greenwald: NSA chief did not offer ‘any evidence’ to Congress

October 30th, 2013
03:38 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Glenn Greenwald on Wednesday said that the head of the U.S. National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, did not offer “any evidence” when he told Congress on Tuesday that the NSA did not collect data on millions of citizens in Europe.

“Notice what he didn’t offer, which is any evidence for the truth of what he’s is saying,” Greenwald said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

Greenwald is the activist and journalist who broke the story of NSA snooping and has a trove a leaked documents from former intelligence staffer Edward Snowden.

“This, remember, is an agency that is extremely beleaguered, in the middle of a very intense scandal both at home and abroad,” he said. “It is an agency whose top officials have a record of lying to the Congress and to the American people through the media, including General Alexander.”

On Tuesday, General Alexander went before Congress and batted down media reports that the NSA had collected data on tens of millions of phone calls in a single month in France and Spain.

“The assertions,” General Alexander said, “are completely false… But both they and the person who stole the classified data did not understand what they were looking at.”

Greenwald called those remarks “accusations made without evidence,” and said that he was “astonished” to see journalists go on television Tuesday and repeat Alexander’s claims “as though they were the gospel.”

“This reporting has been going on for months, Christiane, in Germany and Brazil,” Greenwald said. The NSA has “never once denied that this reporting is accurate. Suddenly they make this assertion in the middle of this scandal, and I think some skepticism is warranted.”

As to whether he himself could have made a mistake, Greenwald did not reject the idea, but stood by his reporting.

“Journalists are human beings and all journalists and all human beings make mistakes,” he told Amanpour. “Of course it’s possible that at some point we’ll make a mistake.”

“But I gathered all the evidence today that I think is relevant to this question,” he said. “It showed exactly what the basis is. Go look at what the NSA says these documents do when they thought that they were talking in private, and the basis is very clear for why it is we reported what we did.”

UPDATE: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the NSA as the National Security Administration. It is the National Security Agency.


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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. ashok

    Do the Chinese ever acknowledge what they are upto ? This is a complex world and if the technology is there, always safer – and in the public interest – to scoop up a little more than letting a lethal signal slip by.

    October 30, 2013 at 4:07 pm | Reply
    • Brian

      The Chinese don't have to admit to anything – they don't get caught. Otherwise, we'd be seeing articles like this every week. Besides, the Chinese have little reason to spy on anyone for terrorism. How many suicide/automobile bombings in China in the last 10 years? Count 'em on one hand. And ZERO from al-Qaeda. As soon as the Chinese government even gets a *hint* of an attack, everyone involved (and a few who might not be) goes to jail. This government (as I live and work there, but I'm a US citizen) brooks no dissent and certainly fears no outside terrorism.

      November 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  2. xyu

    Admiral-General Aladdin

    October 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  3. Steve

    I didn't know the prime ministers of Germany and Spain were the enemies of the USA.

    October 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  4. DAVID GARCIA VARGAS

    Glenn Greenwald for technology innovation fake apple, microsofl, android phone and a chip trap and hidden evil trick NSA South Korea, China and used stolen money millionaires company sell world religion, race, language and so on ... lack francisco I respected Pope Benedict XVI and Tiwtter cell, facebook and news goes.

    October 30, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply
  5. Dave

    I'm sympathetic to the point but I'm not sure how they would they provide evidence that they didn't spy on someone. Can you provide evidence that you never listened to Justin Beiber music on purpose?

    October 31, 2013 at 2:50 am | Reply
  6. Commuted

    So he's saying that the secret agency cannot be governed. Or that lying is the most incredible thing that has ever been discovered. I know, you're saying the NSA's leadership cannot govern the agency 'cause they don't know what it's doing. But what about a secret court? A court with judges appointed by one person. And that one person is not accountable to anyone but God (Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts, who's appointed all the FISA judges). Roberts does not answer to the president or the House. Secret court, something wrong with that concept overseeing anything.

    October 31, 2013 at 4:00 am | Reply
  7. aurelius

    Who's that Greenwald guy? Has he been appointed by god?

    November 2, 2013 at 7:29 am | Reply
  8. Brian

    By the way, how exactly does one present "evidence" of something one hasn't done? Greenwald accuses, and the burden of proof **is on him**, not the gov't! How are they supposed to prove something they claim they don't have? Greenwald must be losing his 15 minutes of fame too fast and just wants to keep his name up.

    November 2, 2013 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  9. Tefera Worku

    I wish NSA or other body whose most pressing mission is to stop the Jihaddist madness was devouring all kinds of chatters and sifting through that and had unearthed the plot to kill the 2 daring French journalists ( they r real journalists ) and related that to the French forces who were near by in Mali.The NSA most probably is staffed by real Pros who wouldn't dwell on someones petty conversation, jibberish or even conversation about serious subject if it has no bearing on their assignment, which is mainly eliminating sec threats that can derail serious business.To use an analogy : I am adept at making a delicious lentil soup.2 make the soup one buys a not too long ago harvested lentil, take it 2 the kitchen, carefully isolate the soil and sand particles whose color resembles the lentil or other residues discard those and then finally make an actual soup.At the begining it is, almost all the time unavoidable to first grab a fist full of the crude lentil and spread it.For 5 years right after 9/11 I used 2 live in the US and there was uneasy feeling of being scrutinized more than the pre-9/11 era.But that was a sign of the changed time.But because almost eveyrone was being scrutinized more than what was common it was hardly the case that individuals with no intention of deliberately hurting innocents were unnecessarily tripped based on the fleeting knowledge about them.So, what good reason can there b 4 making so much clamor about NSA, European and other responsible intelligence agencies ?.Either we want 2 live in a reliably safe World or not.That, in an effort to do things meticulously, some excesses occur may not b fully avoidable from the Intel business.TW, a Mthematician who made 7 years since leaving the US, from A.A..

    November 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Reply
  10. Rufus Reeta

    Someone needs to advise folks like Snowden and Greenwald to grow up. Sometimes i wish People like them had tasted the brutality of al-qaeda; taliban; or any of the planned attacks that the NSA stopped/foiled. In the USA there are many examples whereby an individual changed the way government operates by talking, using the right channels, not the way Snowden did. You can't run to places like China and spill the beans there, a place where the government can eavesdrop on anyone anyway and Folks are not allowed to complain loudly. Snowden and Greenwald should know that nations spy on each other (even friends)and even their own citizens if they feel they are a security risk. In some banana republics operatives use the apparatus for personal ends, you guys are fortunate. Snowden should be enjoying the media coverage and sensationalism caused by his emotional immaturity not whining about the treatment he is getting!

    November 5, 2013 at 5:13 am | Reply

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