Freedom of Information Act Requests to the NSA Up Over 1000%

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This blog post originally appeared on MuckRock, an open-government journalism organization that was one of Freedom of the Press Foundation's first beneficiaries.

A veritable Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) frenzy ensued in 2013 following a series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, recently released documents show. The emails were released to MuckRock, an investigative group that specializes in FOIA requests. 

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. MuckRock requested the NSA’s FOIA logs for this year, as well as any internal communications regarding the agency’s FOIA receipts in 2013. They're still waiting for the most recent FOIA log... probably because the NSA FOIA office is buried under requests.

Read the full NSA document here.

 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 NSA received 1,809 public records requests. 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.


Last month, for instance, MuckRock 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 MuckRock's handy guide.


Zack Sampson is a MuckRock projects intern and a student at the Northeastern University School of Journalism.

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