By Mick Krever, CNN
Spying by America’s National Security Agency does not have “anything to do with terrorism,” Glenn Greenwald, the activist journalist who broke the story, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras?” he asked rhetorically. “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”
The latest revelations of American spying involve the alleged taping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal mobile phone and that the U.S. gathered data about 60 million Spanish phone calls in a single month, which comes after similar reports from France.
Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian, has been systematically publishing reports of secret American intelligence gathering since he was given a treasure trove of leaks by former intelligence officer Edward Snowden.
“It is not true that every country intercepts the personal communications of their democratically elected allies,” Greenwald told Amanpour, referring to the oft-repeated criticism put forward by true believers that “everyone does it.”
“And it’s definitely not the case that every country mass, bulk collects the communications of millions of innocent people in virtually every country in the world.”
“It’s something that the world didn’t know, and now they do know, and that’s the reason why U.S. officials are so angry,” he said. “Not because it damaged national security but because it damages their reputation and credibility around the world.”
Greenwald also rebuffed the criticism that he is recklessly putting people’s lives in danger by revealing America’s spying tactics.
He said that Snowden had asked him to be “very scrutinizing and judicious,” and that he had only made public about 200 or 250 documents out of a total of “many, many, many thousands.”
“Ever since 9/11, British and American officials have screamed terrorism over and over and over every time they get caught doing bad things they shouldn’t do,” Greenwald said. “Every terrorist who’s capable of tying their own shoes has long known that the U.S. government and the U.K. government are trying to monitor their communications in every way that they can.”
“What we revealed is that the spying system is largely devoted not to terrorists but is directed at innocent people around the world.”
Greenwald announced earlier this month that he was leaving The Guardian newspaper to join a new online journalism venture founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
“As a journalist, my question is not ‘How can I best help the U.S. government,” he told Amanpour. “My question is, ‘How do I best inform people around the world of the things they should know.’”
Far too many journalists, he said, are willing to leave their reporting at “'American officials told me yesterday.'”
“There’s no effort to investigate those claims or to find alternative voices,” he said.
The new outfit’s goal, he said, would aim to find “truly independent journalists, who don’t want to be invited to Washington cocktail parties.”