Appearing via live feed before an EU Commission committee on mass surveillance Wednesday, independent journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed what he believed to be the "crux" of the reporting on the NSA so far.
"The reason I know this is what they are attempting to achieve is because they say it over and over and over again. On occasion they say it publicly and repeatedly they say it in their private documents, which were written when they thought nobody was able to hear what it was they were saying." –Glenn Greenwald
According to Greenwald, what the European ministers—and the world—should know about the spy agency's ultimate objective is that it is "nothing less than the elimination of individual privacy worldwide." As he told the panel:
There has been a virtual avalanche of stories and reports over the last six months over espionage and virtual spying by the NSA and its partners and each of these stories has been extremely important, but I think the quantity of them has sometimes endangered the ultimate point from being obscured. So I just wanted to spend a little bit of time discussing what I think is the primary revelation, the crux, of all of these stories that ties them together and—that I think—is the most important thing for us to realize:
That is, what the ultimate goal of what the NSA—along with its most loyal, one might say subservient, junior partner, the British agency GCHQ—when it comes to the reason why this system of surveillance is being built. And the objective of this system is nothing less than the elimination of individual privacy worldwide.
And, at first glance, that might seem like it's a bit hyperbolic—like it's a little bit melodramatic—but it isn't. It's a literal description of what the NSA and what its closest surveillance partners are attempting to achieve. And the reason I know this is what they are attempting to achieve is because they say it over and over and over again. On occasion they say it publicly and repeatedly they say it in their private documents, which were written when they thought nobody was able to hear what it was they were saying.
Citing the often-quoted "collect-it-all" mandate of government spy agencies, Greenwald continued, "The NSA doesn't need a specific reason to collect any communications. The fact that people are communicating is reason enough."
"Every story we've done is driven by this overarching theme," he intoned. "The significance of this reporting, what Mr. Snowden revealed, can't be overstated."
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Greenwald—whose reporting of documents leaked to him and other journalists by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden helped expose the mass surveillance mechanisms of the NSA and the U.K.'s GCHQ—was contributing his testimony to an inquiry by the European Commission Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs into the surveillance of European citizens.
Ahead of the testimony, Greenwald revealed in an interview with ABC News that a lot of "very significant stories that are yet to be reported."
"We published only a small fraction of the ones that we have been given so far because we have gone through each of them and made sure that nothing we are publishing endangers human lives," he added.
During the commission inquiry, Greenwald rejected accusations by EU lawmakers that these revelations have jeopardized the national security of the U.S. and European countries, adding that terrorists are "fully aware" that their electronic communications are tracked and, for that reason, do not use email or the internet.
The only thing that has been harmed, he remarked, is the “perception of honesty and credibility” of the governments involved.
"What a lot of this spying is about has nothing to do with terrorism and national security," Greenwald added. "That is the pretext. It is about diplomatic manipulation and economic advantage.”
You can watch the entirety of Greenwald's testimony below: