The “Snowden Effect” on National Security FOIA

Ever since the Edward Snowden document leaks in June 2013, the National Security Administration (NSA) has been flooded by open records requests, an 888% increase from the past fiscal year.

Edward Snowden leaked classified NSA documents to media outlets“This was the largest spike we’ve ever had,” said Pamela Phillips, NSA’s Chief FOIA Public Liaison Officer. “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.”

During the first quarter of the NSA’s last fiscal year (October to December 2012), it received 257 open-records requests. The next quarter, it received 241. However, at the end of NSA’s third fiscal quarter when news of Snowden’s leaks hit the press, the agency got 1,302 requests. In the next three months, the NSA received 2,538 requests.

A similar effect has been seen before. In 2006, the office saw a two-week spike of 500 or 800 requests with news of the NSA’s terrorist surveillance program and in 2012 there was a 200-request spike when a TV program mentioned a NSA surveillance program. This time, Snowden’s leaks have caused a months-long spike that seems only to be intensifying.

It’s interesting to see the effect of the “Information Age” on the FOIA and requester behavior, as the media and news can have a major impact on what information the public seeks from the government.

You can read the full news article here.