NSA: Sure We Can Search Your Emails, But Not Ours
from the facepalm dept
The NSA. They’re the no-such-agency with the time-honored tradition of looking through the metadata we all leave behind, like the scum-trail of a slug. Also, our emails, social media communications, recipe exchanges, and those obituaries we write up for our enemies in nearly-sexual anticipation of their demise (editor’s note: damn it, Timothy, nobody does that but you!). They have the kind of technological hardware and software that would make an IT admin’s pants explode. They can search through approximately all the stuff, ever, anywhere, to root out terrorist plots and reality TV spoilers.
But you want them to find one of their own internal emails? That’s just crazy-talk, apparently. This, according to ProPublica’s Justin Elliot:
I filed a request last week for emails between NSA employees and employees of the National Geographic Channel over a specific time period. The TV station had aired a friendly documentary on the NSA and I want to better understand the agency’s public-relations efforts. A few days after filing the request, Blacker called, asking me to narrow my request since the FOIA office can search emails only “person by person,” rather than in bulk. The NSA has more than 30,000 employees.
“There’s no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately,” NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week.
I know, I know. you’re thinking, “Will my insurance cover a broken, face-palmed nose?” But surely there’s an explanation for this. Let’s think about it logically. The NSA is essentially a spy organization. They deal in lots of classified stuff and they probably send a lot of information that is classified to one another. After all, they don’t have to worry about being spied on, since they’re doing the spying, follow? So, they set up a system, something like an ultra-awesome Mission Impossible platform, where searching for emails between employees is impossible, because it’s been designed to be impossible. Got it? This is all part of the system, a way to keep information privileged. It’s not ineptitude, they’re just guarding secrets, and that’s why the FOIA request can’t be fulfilled. Right, Cindy?
The system is “a little antiquated and archaic,” she added.
Well, slap a puppy, that’s just unbelievable. And I mean that in every sense of the word. I don’t believe it. The NSA can likely tell me how many emails I’ve sent to whom and about what subjects, but it can’t find any of its own internal emails via the kind of search any competent IT manager could do in his/her sleep? I literally don’t believe that. Neither does anyone else concerned, apparently.
“It’s just baffling,” says Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “This is an agency that’s charged with monitoring millions of communications globally and they can’t even track their own internal communications in response to a FOIA request.”
I think the truth is much closer to they won’t rather than can’t. But, hey, what do I know?