NSA inundated by FOIA requests after Snowden leaks

NSA inundated by FOIA requests after Snowden leaks

Agency’s FOIA caseload is up more than 1,054 percent

Written by
Edited by Shawn Musgrave

A veritable FOIA frenzy ensued in 2013 following a series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, recently released documents show.

From June 6 to September 4, the National Security Agency’s FOIA load increased 1,054 percent over its 2012 intake. In that three-month span, the agency received 3,382 public records requests. For comparison, the NSA received just 293 requests over the same period in 2012.

The statistics come from an internal agency email released to MuckRock last week. We requested the NSA’s FOIA logs for this year, as well as any internal communications regarding the agency’s FOIA receipts in 2013. We’re still waiting for the most recent FOIA log… probably because the NSA FOIA office is buried under requests.

The emails show the FOIA flood unleashed when whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information about Internet and telephone surveillance programs. The number of requests sent to the agency appears to be unprecedented.

The NSA statistics indicate that the agency received 1,809 public records requests in 2012. That amount was nearly doubled just this summer. According to the email, the heaviest flow of requests hit the agency in the early summer shortly after publication of the first media stories about the NSA’s spying on American citizens.

“The requests have leveled off somewhat from earlier in the summer when the first media leaks appeared, although they continue to be much higher than normal,” an NSA FOIA official wrote.

Several of those requests have come from MuckRock users, though we also had plenty of letters out to the agency before the leaks. Last month, for instance, a MuckRocker received copies of the NSA’s contract with the French security research company VUPEN, whose founder styles himself the “Darth Vader of Cybersecurity.”

More documents are sure to be released in the coming weeks as the NSA FOIA office chips away at its log. If you’re interested in submitting your own request to the NSA, check out our handy guide, and keep checking MuckRock for updates.

One of the logs is embedded below, and the rest can be found on the request page.