(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 on Wednesday 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 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 Guardian said.
Snowden’s revelations 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 say the programs helped thwart terrorist attacks.
“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.”
Lawmakers have called for greater oversight of the vast surveillance system, which expanded rapidly after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Intelligence officials were grilled at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday about their data gathering, the lack of transparency and security lapses that let Snowden get away with so much data.