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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 14th, 2014
05:43 PM ET

Glenn Greenwald: New NSA surveillance scoop will reveal American targets

(CNN) – It's not every day that Chelsea Manning gets good news.

In August, Manning asked the military for transgender hormone therapy. Now, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has approved a request for the army to try to work out a plan that would get manning into a civilian prison where she could get that treatment.

But in a statement, the Pentagon makes clear that "no decision to transfer Private Manning to a civilian detention facility has been made."

The former army intelligence analyst, formerly known as Pvt. Bradley Edward Manning, is currently serving a 35-year sentence for one of the biggest security leaks in American history. He funneled hundreds of thousands of classified military documents to the website 'Wikileaks.'

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden likely faces a similar prison term, says Glenn Greenwald, investigative journalist for First Look Media.

"The U.S. has been unprecedentedly vindictive about punishing whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden faces at least that much if not more were he to return," says Greenwald, author of the new book "No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State."

For his reporting on the NSA, Greenwald won a Polk award, and was part of the team from The Guardian that won a Pulitzer.

In his new book Greenwald writes of how he spent months essentially ignoring Snowden's e-mail requests to meet. But Snowden was persistent. He spent hours teaching Greenwald how to encode messages so he could communicate, before he would even met face-to-face.

Greenwald says he thought Snowden was in his 60s or 70s, because he had access to an "extraordinary amount of sensitive documents," and knew "how the surveillance framework functioned."

Because Snowden was adamant that he wanted to be publicly identified, and therefore ready to go to prison for the rest of his life, Greenwald says he assumed Snowden was "probably near the end of his life, and had been around for so long and become that disillusioned."

Perhaps the biggest revelation in Greenwald's book are internal documents revealing the phrase "collect it all" as one of the actual, stated goals of the NSA collection programs. One document from Britain's GCHQ, which works with the NSA, reads, "know it all, collect it all, process it all exploit it all, partner it all, sniff it all."

The significance of the document is that it contradicts official statements about the NSA spying program.

"The primary defense of the NSA and the U.S. government over the last 11 months as this debate has unfolded, is you need not worry because this a very discriminating, targeted system of spying aimed at monitoring the communications only of terrorists and people who pose a threat," says Greenwald.

"That's what they say in public. What they say in private is radically different," says Greenwald. "They say that their goal as an agency ... is to turn the internet into a system of ubiquitous, system-less surveillance."

New NSA scoop

Greenwald says he will have more reporting on the NSA surveillance program in several weeks, looking at specific targets of surveillance.

"The questions that are still left to be answered are things like who within the United States individually are the people who they've targeted as people who ought to have their e-mails read, and their telephone calls listened to," says Greenwald.

"What we know already is they do things like collect the pornographic website activities, and sexual chats of people they deem to be "radicalizers," even though they're not involved in terrorist organizations," said Greenwald. "And they target people who visit the Wikileaks website or are involved with Anonymous."

"This is the kind of targeting of dissident political activity that made surveillance of the 60s so controversial," said Greenwald.

Who will play Edward Snowden and Greenwald in the movie version?

Sony just optioned Greenwald's book for a movie. There is some speculation on who will play Greenwald and Snowden in the movie, but the author says he'll leave the buzz to Twitter.

"The leading names that I've seen are Jared Leto for Edward Snowden ... and Edward Norton has been mentioned a lot for me," he says.

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