“The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years,” Greenwald told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “And what these programs are, are very simple screens, like the ones that supermarket clerks or shipping and receiving clerks use, where all an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and it does two things. It searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered, and it also alerts them to any further activity that people connected to that email address or that IP address do in the future.”
Greenwald explained that while there are “legal constraints” on surveillance that require approval by the FISA court, these programs still allow analysts to search through data with little court approval or supervision.
“There are legal constraints for how you can spy on Americans,” Greenwald said. “You can’t target them without going to the FISA court. But these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents.”
“And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst,” he added.Government officials deny these allegations, saying that the NSA's capabilities are more limited, and no searches can be made without a court order. Except, the NSA Director had previously lied about the scope of the NSA surveillance, so why should we believe him now. And, the FISA court's warrant is so broad, that saying a court order is needed doesn't mean anything at all.