NSA Confirms It Has More Snowden Emails; It Just Isn't Going To Release Them

from the stop-asking,-agency-reps-explained dept

Ed Snowden claims he made multiple attempts to bring his concerns about the NSA programs to those occupying "proper channels" positions, only to be ignored or told everything was perfectly legal and to stop worrying about it.

In response, the ODNI (James Clapper's office) released an email from Snowden to the NSA's General Counsel, asking for clarification as to where Executive Orders stood in the legal authority pecking order. This, it was claimed, was Snowden's only attempt to have his concerns addressed and Clapper used this statement/release to portray Snowden as an analyst who simply gathered documents and leaked them, rather than someone who found his whistleblowing routes closed off.

Of course, this statement came from an agency that admitted it couldn't even search its own internal email system. The fact that reps for the agency (Clapper himself for one) had lied about or obscured elements of the NSA's collection programs several times in the recent past made this statement even more questionable.

Journalist Matthew Keys appears to have obtained evidence that the agency has more Snowden emails, including some addressing his concerns, but isn't willing to release them.

In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records “could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.”

Other records are being withheld because those documents were “also found to be currently and properly classified…and remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.”
Interestingly, although Keys' FOIA request did not specify emails dealing with whistleblowing attempts (it simply asked for all emails from Snowden's email address to other government email addresses), the NSA went ahead and preemptively denied this in its FOIA response.
[P]hillips wrote that “there are no e-mails indicating that Mr. Snowden contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs.”
That's not strictly true, unless the NSA is deciding to read the previously released Snowden email as just a procedural question, rather than considering the question in the context of the leaks.

But there's obviously more information out there. It just seems the NSA will not be releasing it anytime soon. The NSA could clear up this "did he/didn't he" question with a (redacted) dump of Snowden's email account, but it has chosen to hide behind exemptions instead. As long as it considers nearly everything to be critical to "law enforcement proceedings," it is just the NSA's word against Snowden's -- and the NSA's word isn't worth all that much these days.

Clearly, there's more to the story than just Snowden's side. The NSA has gathered plenty of documentation about Snowden's tenure at the agency, but what that actually includes is still limited to speculation. Keys is planning to appeal this decision, but the NSA generally doesn't hand over disputed documents until a federal judge orders it to. The harder the NSA holds onto Snowden's emails, the less trustworthy it appears. If it's so certain Snowden bypassed the proper channels, why not provide evidence to back that assertion up?

Filed Under: ed snowden, foia, matthew keys, nsa

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  1. icon
    beltorak (profile), 14 Jul 2014 @ 6:54pm

    Re: Couple of 'fixes' and 'additions' needed

    Hey! Those footnotes were redacted in the original for a reason!


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