Hey, did you hear the one about the secret governmental spy agency that is pretending to care about your privacy?
Sadly, it’s not a goofy joke your father might tell you at the dinner table. It’s real. The NSA, the same covert surveillance agency that was exposed for spying on the American public at large, is declining to share documents that could very well incriminate itself. The agency’s excuse is that they are unwilling to compromise the privacy rights of a particular former employee.
Specifically, the information request is in reference to documents pertaining to renowned whistleblower Edward Snowden. Since the initial leaks, Snowden has faced criticism for publicly airing the United States’s dirty laundry rather than reporting the wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities. However, Snowden has maintained that he did complain about the NSA’s shady activities on multiple occasions to no avail.
Journalist Matthew Keys filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see if copies of Snowden’s work emails would confirm Snowden’s account. Alas, the NSA claimed that they were unable to release these relevant emails because doing so would infringe on Snowden’s right to privacy. “In balancing the public interest for the information you request against the privacy interest involved, we have determined that the privacy interests sufficiently satisfy the requirements for the application of the exemption.”
Okay, maybe it IS a joke. Suddenly the same agency that is now infamous for massive privacy invasions is drawing the line at sharing some documents that could very well implicate them for knowingly engaging in illegal activities. At the very least, it’s funny to discover in which instances privacy matters to the NSA.
Besides, the NSA didn’t have any trouble releasing an incomplete, potentially intentionally misleading portrayal of Snowden just weeks ago. In May, the NSA did release a single work email written by Snowden. This particular email did not show Snowden chastising the agency for unconstitutional behavior.
Snowden called the email the NSA previously released a “clearly tailored and incomplete leak.” He stands by the fact that he addressed his concerns, both written and verbally, with higher-ups many times, a claim the NSA continues to deny.
Although Snowden is no longer inspiring the headlines he once did, he’s still definitely generating news. Russian officials have stated their intention to extend this man-without-a-country’s asylum before it expires at the end of the month. Additionally, Snowden recently publicly disapproved of the United Kingdom’s draconian new pro-surveillance legislation.
Given how transparent Snowden has been throughout his exile, it seems likely that the NSA’s concerns for his privacy are motivated by self-interest rather than concern for Snowden’s rights.