New Snowden leak upstages U.S. move to declassify documents

WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – New revelations from former security contractor Edward Snowden that U.S. intelligence agencies have access to a vast online tracking tool came to light yesterday, as lawmakers put the secret surveillance programs under greater scrutiny.

The Guardian, citing documents from Snowden, published National Security Agency training materials for the XKeyscore program, which the British newspaper described as the NSA’s widest-reaching system that covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the Internet.”

Intelligence analysts can conduct surveillance through XKeyscore by filling in an on-screen form giving only a “broad justification” for the search and no review by a court or NSA staff, the newspaper said.

Snowden’s disclosures to media that U.S. intelligence agencies collected data on phone calls and other communications of Americans and foreign citizens as a tool to fight terrorism have sparked uproar in the United States and abroad.

Intelligence officials insist the surveillance programs helped thwart terrorist attacks and saved many American lives.

“The implication that NSA’s collection is arbitrary and unconstrained is false,” the agency said in a statement in response to the Guardian’s new report, calling XKeyscore part of “NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.”

Opposition to the sweeping surveillance has been gaining traction in Congress, despite intense lobbying on the intelligence agencies’ behalf from the Obama administration, congressional leaders and members of the House of Representatives and Senate Intelligence Committees.

President Barack Obama scheduled a meeting for Thursday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, including the leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence Com-mittees, to discuss programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a White House official said on Wednesday.

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