New NSA Spying Revelations Spark Call for More Congressional Oversight

Spying agency has the means to access foreign military computers using radio waves and covert chips.
3:00 | 01/15/14

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Transcript for New NSA Spying Revelations Spark Call for More Congressional Oversight
This is a special room. -- anti Hernandez in New York with this ABC news digital special report new -- -- about NSA spying. The US intelligence agency has tapped into some 100000. Overseas computers. Including those of the Chinese and Russian military. A short time ago Senator John McCain -- these revelations that others are proof that more congressional oversight and laws are needed to rein in the NSA. The latest leaks are another argument for a select committee. Of congress to examine all aspects of NSA's activities. The leaks. That -- -- fair. The whole Bradley Manning a fair. And then have. Legislation shape which would address these serious issues. And obviously that congress. Is not engaged in the way that it should be. We need to address this issue and a broad spectrum. Ranging from cyber security. As far as what foreign espionage is Starr's leaks as far as the activities of the NSA is concerned. And how what it is done to the image and reputation. Of the United States of America among other things. On Friday President Obama will announce some highly anticipated changes to overhaul the NSA. Kidnapped from the Pentagon is ABC's Louis Martinez -- -- afternoon and they deet -- in the New York Times to begin went because it got a couple of things to talk about here. Those details in the near times straight out of -- James Bond movies some might say. The NSA apparently able to. -- insurer and and get in touch with thousands of Russian and Chinese military computers those computers apparently shipped. With software. On them to allow the NSA -- -- That's exactly right it's totally -- -- We're talking about. Circuits. Or. Factory -- the laptop -- come with these circuits. That basically transmit radio waves until. Briefcase sized relay stations that can be located far as eight miles away and then from there relay to the NSA's. Gathering points around the world is just fascinating stuff. One of the things that they're talking about how is. This is what a USB years this is the thing that we sticking our computers and little ports on the side of the laptops -- desktops all the time he's in for blackberries for phones and anything. Well what the NSA has done is that they implanted a circuit into the wires here of this USB. That creates a Covert channels so that whatever information is going through that laptop can then be relayed through -- relay stations now what makes this important. Isn't that this computer is connected to the Internet it's that it's -- not connected to the Internet. Because that's what countries are America's rivals of -- they know that the United States is trying to monitor their activities so they -- they cut off. Their most sensitive. Computers from the Internet and this system basically bypasses that seat vacant and sick -- -- -- and see what's going on. And really because obviously this isn't very expensive to do per computer -- would assume and there are only about a 100000 of them out there. Rigged with these special USB ports the special circuits. These were individuals that were targeted by the NSA in other words they didn't just randomly send out computers so. With the -- capability. -- that is is very precise targeting. And and that the target bases here are estates and non state actors so. It's tonight just Russia and China which -- this country that we're most concerned about state sponsored cyber warfare. Or cyber activity I am talking beyond hacking but also. Drug cartels because obviously they are -- national threat the United States. The drugs that they bring in they smuggle across the border. So this way they can. To get a heads up about what the activities are. And the state actors that that rationale and I'm hearing for and why these this program -- in place actually it's been in place for almost five years. Is that it hits off the NSA and the US about potential cyber attacks before they occur so that they're not -- Caught caught unaware so it's -- -- as an early warning system. All right -- these laptops and computers not located in the United States but as we heard from Senator John McCain revelations like these. Do have people -- eight. Why is that and are we to believe that there are seriously none of these computers located in the United States is there a lot of suspicion still surrounding the NSA. Well -- NSA says that they -- foreign intelligence gathering. Agency. And so they are seen at this program. Is not active in the United States this is geared towards gathering foreign intelligence. Pains in the range of -- country that I talked about but the -- -- may include -- some of our allies now that the thinking here is that the NSA. Has gone beyond its scope. And that's why news. The snow in documents that have been coming out over the past six months. -- just -- so much awareness about privacy concerns over the individuals and of the state and our relationships with other countries. And what we're seeing now is push back from members of congress saying that we need to rein in. This agency now yesterday we had his hearing where the members of this Tennessee review panel said that they thought that the NSA had a ton of oversight by congress. But you're getting that feeling now that there's another side up there that feels that that they need to be reined in because they've been -- this blanket approval. And they're doing basically whatever they want to and this is another programming seems to be raising concern up on Capitol Hill. Even the president. Coming in in terms of that concern about this the president. -- preparing to announce new and is -- guidelines on Friday and that reporters of course tried and failed to get a preview out of him. Yeah. Actually it's getting calls so. I'll have fight but to say about that. Terrorism. And quite -- -- to say but just not yet. In anticipation of what the president can announce Friday -- do we know how he -- garnered dress or if -- changes will address. But congress has been saying or the public has been saying combination about. It's an examination and everything and what we do know is that when he says very -- talking about this Friday is getting me getting. Remarks that talk about these changes now the changes that he's thinking about a lot of -- come -- -- 46 recommendations that were put together. By eight blue ribbon panel of former intelligence experts constitutional -- experts. That looked at the NSA's. Intelligence gathering operations -- systems. And -- up with these recommendations about it may be how to tighten up. What they view. So vis a -- recommendations so it's up to the president to determine exactly what he's going to do but he has a wide. Range of items to choose from and we're gonna find -- -- Friday exactly what those will be. And when we talk about the panel -- one of the aspect they -- most most critical about. What the government holding on a mass amounts of metadata let's take a listen. Government can do far more harm if it abuses information in its possession -- private entities can. And -- for a judgment was that -- the government should not have possession of this information. I'm because if it does there's always the possibility of someone coming along down the road team this is a great opportunity to get political dirt on on an individual's. On and on their activities other organizations -- association's. And that that's a danger that we want to avoid. Case -- -- set this up a little bit rat retrospectively there that is member of the panel testifying before congress yesterday. And what else did the review panel emphasized during its testimony yesterday. Let's -- -- a constitutional lie expert from the university Chicago and what he's talking about there is metadata. For the NSA has said -- they don't look at the contents of your phone calls or email messages what they look at is who who we were talking to what time. And what's line -- you use that's what they called metadata. The concern that the panel has -- that -- the United States government. Holds onto that there's always the risk. Of abuse. That it doesn't matter whether this administration promises this -- that that in the future it and it opens up the opportunity. For political -- gathering let's say or something like that so they want. The telephone companies to beat a repositories of these databases of this minute -- there's some support for that. They may not be there is another support for another idea that they have which is that. The visit -- fight is a court that's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court theory that's that these are the federal judges who approved. On a regular basis -- -- intelligence gathering operations. There's -- thinking that the court has. That the judges are just to have a blanket approval all the time. Well one of the recommendations for an interview group is that they set up an independent person. An arbiter basically who can represent the interest. The privacy concerns of individuals or groups. An ad hoc basis so that -- judge can -- that can determine. You can hear other. Ideas about whether this is a program that is harmful or not to privacy concerns. Like I said as a whole host of other things that they are looking at the recommendations another one talks about how even believe it side by. The NSA can basically break it to every encryption and commercial encryption software that's out there. And part of the way to do that is because the companies would send their software to the NSA say hey does this work. And David say yes it does but surreptitiously with pianist they would do is that they would look at figure out the keys to how to -- in. And so that even though they were giving their stamp of approval saying this is a very secure software and they knew how to -- again. If they needed to so that's kind of like the oversight -- recommendation is that this. Analysts talking about a can of course Friday were gonna see which one. President Obama intends to adopt or which ones -- that party BC's Louis Martinez thank you so much for joining us. -- -- This has been an ABC news digital special report new details about NSA spying as President Obama prepares to make changes to the end -- -- -- Hernandez New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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