Guardian Reporter: We Have List of NSA Targets

Cue Card preview image

General Information

NBC Today Show
Savannah Guthrie
Event Date:
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
Clip Length:


Glenn Greenwald, the reporter at The Guardian who broke the story about National Security Agency domestic surveillance programs, discusses the information received from whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying the federal government is now trying to "scare the American people" to justify its "massive spying program."



"Guardian Reporter: We Have List of NSA Targets." Savannah Guthrie, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 10 June 2013. NBC Learn. Web. 11 January 2020.


Guthrie, S. (Reporter). (2013, June 10). Guardian Reporter: We Have List of NSA Targets. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Guardian Reporter: We Have List of NSA Targets" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 06/10/2013. Accessed Sat Jan 11 2020 from NBC Learn:


Guardian Reporter: We Have List of NSA Targets


Glenn Greenwald is a columnist for The Guardian who broke this story. Glenn, good morning to you.

GLENN GREENWALD (Reporter, The Guardian): Good morning.

GUTHRIE: As we just heard, the Department of Justice has now opened a leak investigation. When was the last time you spoke with Edward Snowden?

GREENWALD: I spoke with him probably around five or six hours ago.

GUTHRIE: Have there been any contacts to him by the U.S. government, any agency of the U.S. government as far as you know?

GREENWALD: No. I don’t believe there has been any. I’m not sure that they actually know where he is or how to communicate with him and they have not communicated with him to my knowledge.

GUTHRIE: Glenn, in the video as we just saw, Snowden makes what I consider to be a rather remarkable claim stating, quote, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap you, your accountant, a federal judge, even the President if I had a personal e-mail.” Let’s make a distinction here. He didn’t say that he had the ability to do it, for example if he went rogue. He said he had the legal authority to do it. Did you follow up and ask him what legal authority that purports to be?

GREENWALD: That isn’t what he said. He didn’t say he had the legal authority, that’s a word that you included in the statement that he didn’t actually include. What he meant--

GUTHRIE: He said authority.

GREENWALD: --clearly was that given-- yeah, he said authority, not legal authority which is what you just quoted him as saying. And what I’m telling you is if that is a misquotation because what he was clearly saying was that and the point you ought to be interested in as a journalist more so than the one that you asked is that people who sit at the NSA desk, thousands of them, have the authority. meaning the NSA has given them the power to be able to go in and scrutinize the communications of any American. It may not be legal but they have the power to do it. And because all of this takes place in the dark with no accountability and no checks, that’s the reason why he felt so compelled to inform his fellow citizens about the capabilities this massive surveillance apparatus provides because it’s so conducive to abuse.

GUTHRIE: But it is an interesting point, right? I mean he’s saying it is conducive to abuse but what he isn’t saying is that doing so would be within the strictures of U.S. law. In fact, that-- that-- in other words, the U.S. law allows him to do something like this?

GREENWALD: Well, I think the really important point here is that there have been many efforts on the part of the ACLU and other advocacy groups to go into court and to challenge the constitutionality of the surveillance system and to ask federal courts to rule about whether or not what the Obama administration and the Bush administration before them is doing is actually consistent with the 4th Amendment. And rather than let those lawsuits proceed, the government has continuously said it is too secretive to allow courts to review and because we do all of this in the dark, nobody can prove they have been eves dropped on and therefore don’t have standing to sue. So if this is really legal, why doesn’t the government allow federal courts to rule on whether or not our constitutional rights are vio-- being violated as citizens? It’s because they do everything in secret, which is why we need whistleblowers to come forth like Mister Snowden so that we can have some transparency on-- on political officials.

GUTHRIE: Fair enough. The-- the government comes in, makes the argument that this is protected by the state secrets privilege, then a federal judge rules on that and in this case a federal judge has said that the states secrets privilege was asserted properly. That is within the law, is it not?

GREENWALD: Right. Actually, that’s not at all what happened. What happened was the ACLU went into court and asked for a ruling on the constitutionality of the law. And what the federal government said is you have no ability to prove that your clients were actually eaves dropped on. You can’t prove they were subjected to surveillance because everyone that we surveil we keep that a secret. And therefore your clients have no standing to sue. Part of what the documents include that-- that he turned over is a list of the people that the U.S. government has been targeting. And one of the reasons he did that was so those lawsuits finally can proceed so that we can now know who has been subjected to the surveillance so they can go into court and ask a court ruling-- for a court ruling on whether or not this is a violation of the constitution to have this massive surveillance system aimed at millions of Americans regardless of whether there’s evidence of any wrongdoing.

GUTHRIE: And then finally, as you well know, the director of National Intelligence James Clapper called these revelations literally gut wrenching. In response, you tweeted, “Save some melodrama and rhetoric for coming stories. You’ll need it.”

GREENWALD: Right. Because in every single case over the past four to five decades when there are revelations of wrongdoing that is done in secret, what the strategy of the U.S. government is, is to come out and try and scare the America public and just saying these people have jeopardized you. There’s going to be a terrorist attack. There is not a single revelation that we provided to the world that even remotely jeopardizes national security. The only thing that has been jeopardized is the reputation and credibility of the people in power who are engaged in this massive spying program and wanted to do it in the dark. And we-- as journalists, I think our number one obligation should be not to allow government officials to screen terrorists and try and scare people every time there’s transparency brought to them, but instead scrutinize whether those claims are valid. And there’s not anything that we can disclose to the world that can remotely or conceivably be said to harm national security in any way.

GUTHRIE: All right. Glenn Greenwald, thank you for your perspective this morning. We appreciate it.