The United States National Security Agency (NSA) recently released a variety of documents containing oversight reports in compliance with a court order from this past summer. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) obtained access to the documents via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. According to the agreement, the NSA was supposed to release the documents on December 22. However, the ACLU claims the NSA released the documents–many of which back up NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claims about the organization’s misconduct–late to take advantage of most Americans’ preoccupation with Christmas festivities and minimize the documents’ exposure.
The NSA Purposely Released the Documents Late
According to the ACLU, the NSA shipped the documents via FedEx on December 22 in the afternoon and that the ACLU did not receive them until the next day. They consider this an under-handed attempt to minimize the impact of the documents–which contain (heavily redacted) reports on employee misconduct. Speaking to The Guardian, ACLU staff attorney Patrick Toomey says he believes the NSA purposely released the documents late so that they would receive less exposure in the press than if they were released during an ordinary news cycle.
I certainly think the NSA would prefer to have the documents released right ahead of the holidays in order to have less public attention on what they contain.
He elaborated that many of the documents vindicate NSA former analyst-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden’s claims that analysts have excessive power and regularly violate civil rights outlined by the U.S. Constitution.
There are certain portions of the documents that really vindicate some of the things [Edward] Snowden said when he first described the NSA surveillance in terms of the ability of analysts to conduct queries – without authorisation – of raw internet traffic.
Toomey’s statements have merit. In today’s fast-paced world, news grows “old” within days–sometimes hours. Even a story as sensational and important as the release of documents that show NSA analysts committing blatant civil rights violations can quickly become shuffled out of the news cycle. It is no coincidence that the ACLU did not receive the documents until it was too late to analyze them before most people went on holiday, nor is it random that the NSA neglected to post the documents online until later in the day on December 23. The NSA document dump has received–and will continue to receive–coverage, but the timing of the release and the rapidity of the news cycle will, without a doubt, minimize public awareness.
Images from Wikimedia Commons.
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