In the wake of information leaked by Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been swamped by an 888% surge in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Clearly, Americans want to find out how the NSA snooping programs affect them personally.
Indeed, the thousands of FOIA requests filed by Americans since June far outnumber the mere hundreds that it received annually in previous years.
According to Alcindor, the NSA only received 257 FOIA requests during the last fiscal year. Shortly after the first Snowden leak appeared on June 6, however, the agency became flooded with 1,302 requests almost immediately. During the following three months, the paper reported, the NSA received 2,538 requests, the likes of which have inundated the government staffers tasked with responding for the open records requests.
Pamela Phillips, the chief of the NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office, told the paper that “This was the largest spike we've ever had.”
“We've had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that,” Phillips said.
Unfortunately for those thousands of Americans, however, the NSA isn't being all that helpful. Even though the NSA is experiencing thousands of similar requests from Americans wanting to know if and how they've been targeted, the agency has been responding by refusing to admit what kind of intelligence, if any, it’s collected.
The NSA's stance on the matter is that disclosing information about whether they're investigating or not investigating particular citizens would compromise their surveillance programs and “…cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”
Surely this response will do nothing to lessen the legitimate concerns of Americans who fear the potential for malicious misuse of such information. The Supreme Court has also not offered any support, so far, declining to consider a complaint related to phone snooping.