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Glenn Greenwald: Is U.S. Exaggerating Threat to Embassies to Silence Critics of NSA Domestic Surveillance?

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The Obama administration has announced it will keep 19 diplomatic posts in North Africa and the Middle East closed for up to a week, due to fears of a possible militant threat. On Sunday, Senator Saxby Chambliss, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the decision to close the embassies was based on information collected by the National Security Agency. "If we did not have these programs, we simply would not be able to listen in on the bad guys," Chambliss said, in a direct reference to increasing debate over widespread spying of all Americans revealed by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian.

Today Democracy Now! gives Greenwald a chance to respond to these developments. "Nobody has ever questioned or disputed that the U.S. government, like all governments around the world, ought to be eavesdropping and monitoring the conversations of people who pose an actual threat to the United States in terms of plotting terrorist attacks," Greenwald says.

Pointing to the recent revelations by leaker Edward Snowden that he has reported on, Greenwald explains, "Here we are in the midst of one of the most intense debates and sustained debates that we've had in a very long time in this country over the dangers of excess surveillance, and suddenly, an administration that has spent two years claiming that it has decimated al-Qaeda decides that there is this massive threat that involves the closing of embassies and consulates around the world. ... The controversy is over the fact that they are sweeping up billions and billions of emails and telephone calls every single day from people around the world and in the United States who have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism."

Greenwald also says he has spoken to Snowden recently. "I have spoken to him and he's doing very well. He's obviously happy that his very strained situation of being in this kind of no-person's land in the airport has been resolved. He now is able to be safe, or at least relatively safe, for the next year from persecution by the United States. And he is most interested, whenever I talk to him, in talking not about his own situation but about the really extraordinary debate that he helped provoke both in the United States and around the world about privacy, surveillance, and Internet freedom."

On Democracy Now!, Greenwald also discusses the NSA's XKeyscore internet tracking program, Reuter's report on the Drug Enforcement Agency spying on Americans, and the conviction of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Click here to watch more Democracy Now! reports on the NSA surveillance.